The human mind is so complex, and the cognitive process so unknown, that perception is one of the most confusing frontiers facing social scientists. Why do people perceive situations as they do—often as events far different from the ones that actually transpired? If a person is convinced that an event occurred the way he or she remembers it, then it becomes that person's reality. It will be stored that way and may be retrieved that way in the future— perhaps blocking opportunities for positive growth and change because the memory is based on an inaccurate perception.
If children are taught that they are "stupid" because they cannot understand what is expected of them, for example, then they may eventually stop attempting to understand: They have learned that their response (trying to understand) and the situation's outcome are independent of each other. If such helpless feelings are reinforced, the individuals may develop an expectation that no matter what they do, it will be futile. They will then develop a new feeling—helplessness—which can be generalized to a new situation and can interfere with the future. Various studies have indeed shown that many people have been "taught" that, no matter what their response, the outcome will be the same—failure—so there is no reason to bother to do anything.
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