Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Achievement motivation and locus of control in black children attending a public school in an economically-depressed area of New Orleans, Louisiana were studied. Past research had found contradictory results regarding locus of control in students who are lacking in achievement motivation. Dweck (1975) suggested that these students were "learned helpless," i.e. they perceived their achievement outcomes to be due to external causes; that these same students could be trained to attribute outcomes to internal causes; and that this attribution training would lead to persistence following failure on achievement tasks. The present study investigated the locus of control of 130 fifth- and sixth-graders. The Intellectual Achievement Responsibility (IAR) scale was used to measure locus of control. Male and female responses on the IAR were compared as well as responses of students whom teachers deemed persistent versus those they judged to be nonpersistent. Twenty-four "nonpersistent" males participated in an experiment studying the effectiveness of attribution training on persistence following failure. Subjects were divided into four treatment groups. The experimental treatment lasted for six daily sessions. During each session, a subject worked on arithematic problems with his experimenter present. The task consisted of working a criterion number of problems correctly within one minute. On scheduled-failure trials, subjects in the attribution-training conditions were told that they had failed and that their failure was due to insufficient effort. Subjects in the nontraining conditions were simply informed that they had failed. Half the subjects in the attribution-trained and half in the nontrained conditions used a visual-cue apparatus to increase the feedback concerning the amount of effort expended and the amount required for success. "Nonpersisters" were found to be more external for achievement outcomes than "persisters" were. Nonpersisters also were found to attribute outcomes to effort less than persisters. In general, these effects were greater for female nonpersisters than for male nonpersisters. Attribution training was found to increase persistence (p = .07) even though subjects attributed failure to a lack of effort extensively even before attribution training occurred. Results are discussed in terms of the subtle messages which teacher feedback following failure can convey and its potential potent effects on the low achievement-motivated student. The effectiveness of using competition is also discussed. The failure of the visual-cue apparatus to increase persistence suggests that such an elaborate machine would be of little, if any, benefit in the classroom.