Motivational Patterns in the Attribution Theory

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  • Learned Helplessness: Student believes they have no control over anything so they give up. They avoid situations where they know they will be challenged. They think that there is no way they can fix this and are very afraid of failure.


  • Locus: Students are constantly searching for causes of their success and failure.
External locus- Attributing results to factors they cannot control. For example a bad teacher or limited time to take an exam.
Internal locus- Can be positive when success is attributed to internal locus but detrimental when they blame themselves for failure.
  • Attributing success to internal locus results in increased self esteem
  • Attributing failure to internal locus results in shame or guilt



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  • Stability and habitual thinking: Expectations for the future are based on whether the cause is stable and constant or has the potential for change and growth.
  • Native ability and task difficulty are stable
  • The amount of effort the student exerts and luck are considered unstable and subject to change

If students believe failure is inevitable then there is no point in trying. If they believe in their own capabilities to accomplish something and be successful then there is room for improvement.