Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study investigated the effects of participant ethnicity, research ethnicity, and either failure, success, or neural feedback on performance on letter anagram tasks. The failure feedback represented a standard learned helplessness paradigm with the dependent measures focused on the interferences and behavior of he participants in response to feedback from either a Native American or European American researcher. A total of 55 Native Americans and 73 European Americans were assigned randomly to one of three feedback conditions (success, failure, neutral) conducted by a study blind examiner of either American Indian or Caucasian ethnicity and appearance. Participant level of biculturalism was assessed using the Northern Plains Biculturalism Inventory (NPBI), a 30 item questionnaire which assesses the degree of cultural competence on two orthogonally related cultural dimensions. Learned helplessness effects were inferred for groups as a function of anagrams completed as well as through the Concept Formation Task Questionnaire (CFTQ) measure of individual participant self-perceptions regarding the adequacy of their performance. Feedback was manipulated by the examiners with random assignment of participants to either a 100% Failure group, 100% Success condition, of accurate and neutral feedback. Additional questionnaire items were used to ethnicity. Native American participants did complete the fewest anagrams in the failure condition as predicted when European American examiners provided the feedback. Native American participant confidence and satisfaction in their performance on the anagram task (CFTQ) was curiously lower when the feedback came back from a European American examiner as opposed to someone from the same ethnicity. It was also hypothesized in this study that American Indian subjects exhibiting higher levels of Traditional or Marginal cultural orientation would show greater frustration and learned helplessness in the Failure group than their more Assimilated or Bicultural peers, as well as the Caucasian subjects. Trends were shown suggesting resiliency to these effects among American Indian participants with Bicultural or Assimilated, as opposed to Traditional or Marginal cultural orientations.

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