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A discussion of pavlovian model of the acquisition of specific phobias

Steve Baldwin The classical conditioning explanation of phobias, and the treatment of such conditions. Baldwin This essay will outline and critically evaluate the classical conditioning explanation of how phobias are acquired.

It will then discuss the influence the theory of classical conditioning has had on the treatments for phobic conditions. Phobias are usually defined as a fearful response to stimuli which is out of proportion to the actual threat or danger that the stimulus presents.

A discussion of pavlovian model of the acquisition of specific phobias

The existence of phobias and the mechanisms that give rise to them have been of great interest to the field of psychology from its beginning. One interpretation of how an individual will develop a phobic response is the classical conditioning theory.

The classical conditioning theory states that through a process of learned association, the conditioned stimulus will be paired with the unconditioned stimulus, and a conditioned behavioural response will then occur when the paired unconditioned stimuli is presented alone. One of the first studies to test the possibility of applying classical conditioning to the development of phobias was Watson and Rayner.

By showing a white rat, the conditioned stimulus, and pairing it with a loud sound, striking an iron bar, the unconditioned stimulus, and repeating this process several times, he is declared to be conditioned when he shows distressed behaviours such as, crying, turning away and crawling away, when the white rat alone was put in front of him. The paper concludes with the suggestion that many phobias have been gained in some similar way.

The fact that phobias tend to be so persistent, is not readily explained by classical conditioning particularly when the pairing of conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus may occur very infrequently and over a long period of time. Furthermore phobias tend to cluster around certain stimuli, spiders for example, but the theory we would lead one to expect a fairly random distribution, given the range of chance encounters that many occur.

These inconsistencies suggest that the classical conditioning model may not be as explanatory as it may have initially appeared.

Perhaps the great strength of the classical conditioning theory of phobia acquisition is its simplicity and compatibility with the scientific method.

No other theory is more straight forward, but as suggested above it seems to be inadequate to explain why a conditioned response persists as a phobia without refreshing and why phobias tend to be much more prevalent for some objects but not others. One of its major theoretic rivals, certainly in early years of development, is Freudian psychodynamics.

The Freudian theory relates all phobic responses back to psychosexual development. A phobia, the theory states is the result of a defence mechanism to help cope with repression. An individual will displace repressed emotions onto a similar more acceptable object. The case study of Little Hans, Freud, S, 1909 is an example of this.

While Freudian analysis is still popular in places, its lack of compatibility with the scientific method makes it a theory that psychologists may be wary of trusting. The evolutionary explanation of biological preparedness and non-associative fear acquisition, are particularly useful interpretations when the classical conditioning theory has difficulty understanding the cause of the phobia, or why some phobias are much more common than others.

Such as when a phobia only concerns a limited number of events and objects, when phobias are acquired through normal development without any apparent pairing of the two stimuli.

A discussion of pavlovian model of the acquisition of specific phobias

It may have some explanatory power concerning the difficulty of classically conditioned fear to an event or object that has no evolutionary fear significance, for example, curtains, compared to one that does, a spider. Still it remains the case that some people do acquire phobias of the most innocuous objects such as buttons and dolls. So evolutionary theory can only be suitable for certain types of phobia.

  1. Preparedness theory essayshow has preparedness theory attempted to integrate a pavlovian model of the acquisition of specific phobias with this biological specificity what is the status of further, a contemporary status of preparedness theory is discussed by means of an evaluation of available evidence russian. Counterconditioning is a different variant, and as the name suggests it is designed to replace the fear response with a more positive one, the theory which underlies this therapy and the process by which it is performed are entirely attributable to the classical conditioning theory.
  2. The case study of Little Hans, Freud, S, 1909 is an example of this. Conditioning based therapies remain the most widely used and effective for many different phobias, this is perhaps the most worthwhile and surprising legacy of the classical conditioning approach.
  3. The Freudian theory relates all phobic responses back to psychosexual development.

Evolutionary theory also suffers from the same problems of verifiability as the Freudian theory does, which is likely to lower confidence in its predictive and explanatory power.

An example of the situational phobia is the interpretation of a bodily sensation such as vertigo, as threatening and attributing this ambiguous sensation to the situation.

Field and Nightingale 2009consider classical conditioning to form a useful basis for understanding phobias, but point out modern conditioning theory has developed to include interactions with cognition and is the basis for many other panic and anxiety disorders. Nevertheless conditioning theory has shaped many of the treatments that are given to individuals suffering from phobias. Exposure treatments were some of the first to be developed, and they are still used today.

This is because the recorded success rate of these treatments is very good. A variety of treatments have been developed to this end. Flooding is an exposure treatment which can be performed by imagining the phobic stimulus or being artificially exposed to it.

Counterconditioning is a different variant, and as the name suggests it is designed to replace the fear response with a more positive one, the theory which underlies this therapy and the process by which it is performed are entirely attributable to the classical conditioning theory. Systematic desensitisation is also another variant based in conditioning theory. Beginning at the first level of phobic stimulus they are exposed until they gain a relaxed state whereupon they are exposed to the next level and so on until they have achieved an extinction of the phobic response.

There are also one-session rapid treatment therapies, which have been developed in recent years for the modern no time to stop, twenty-four seven society. The classical conditioning principle remains the same, gradual exposure to the phobic stimulus through a combination of the afore mentioned strategies until extinction has been achieved. In conclusion classical conditioning explanation of phobias is useful, but its explanatory power is limited.

  • Baldwin This essay will outline and critically evaluate the classical conditioning explanation of how phobias are acquired;
  • Phobias are usually defined as a fearful response to stimuli which is out of proportion to the actual threat or danger that the stimulus presents;
  • Specific fears i believed that certain characteristics of specific fears and phobias were either inadequately explained by existing theories or there was a gross overuse of post hoc rationalisations for the purpose of discussion of fears the classical conditioning model of fear acquisition was extended by mowrer;
  • Baldwin This essay will outline and critically evaluate the classical conditioning explanation of how phobias are acquired;
  • His experiment on his dog circa lead him to discoveries of underlying principles of classical conditioning the more important question that stuck around was if the experiment would work on humans the task was to prove the theory was then taken on by jb watson and rayner, and conducted the little.

While it has several rivals, its simplicity along with its scientific orientation are the key strengths of the theory. Although unable to explain all phobias, even where its explanation is not adequate, the treatments that have developed from the classical conditioning theory can often help those suffering from them.

  • According to the behavioural approach, abnormal behaviour can be caused by;
  • The classical conditioning theory states that through a process of learned association, the conditioned stimulus will be paired with the unconditioned stimulus, and a conditioned behavioural response will then occur when the paired unconditioned stimuli is presented alone.

Conditioning based therapies remain the most widely used and effective for many different phobias, this is perhaps the most worthwhile and surprising legacy of the classical conditioning approach. Psychopathology and treatment of specific phobias. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The Assessment and Treatment of Specific Phobias: A Review 2006 Current Psychiatry Reports, 8. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3 11-14.