Explaining Phobia

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Explaining Phobia

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PSYCH/504

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Explaining Phobia

Phobias are very common. The Association of Psychiatry defines phobia as an excessive and persistent fear of a specific thing (American Psychiatric Association, 2012). Sally, who has a dog phobia since she was in second grade because of a negative experience has anxiety when she meets someone and is asked to go to a new place where she does not know if there is a dog present or not. To explain Sally’s phobia and how it was developed theories are used on how or why she developed the fear of dogs. Phobias can be explained by classical conditions, operant conditioning, and observational learning. Overcoming phobias can be done with extinction and cognitive theory. Phobias Are Created

Sally seems to have had a negative experience with dogs at a young age. She could have had an operant conditioning. Operant conditioning could have occurred if there was a negative reinforcer for a behavior she did. Maybe her parents punished her with a negative punishment that included dogs.

If Sally is scared of dogs it could be a classical conditioning. Her parents or someone she was close to may have told her that dogs are mean and that she needed to be afraid of dogs. She could have created this phobia from others telling her that she needed to stay away from dogs because they could bite her.

Another method that Sally could have created the phobia was from observing others that she was close to. Her parents could have been scared of dogs, and they too avoided places where dogs were until she was in second grade is when she saw the model be terrified of dogs. Learned behavior

Humans and animals have a neutral behavior concerning certain things. According to Ivan Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning “a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. Then, a previously neutral stimulus is paired with the naturally occurring stimulus. Eventually, the previously neutral stimulus comes to evoke the response without the presence of the naturally occurring stimulus” (Merriam-Webster, 2013). Sally, for example, did not know about the fear of animals during a time. During this time the principal of classical conditioning can be used. Sally could have been conditioned to have this fear of all dogs. With treatment to show her how to discriminate that not all dogs are mean. A therapist could show her pictures of different dogs to show her that not all dogs are the same. With time the therapist could introduce her to a dog and show her how nice the dog is. With more positive experiences Sally could lose the fear of dogs (Cervone, 2010). The same way that she was conditioned to have fear of dogs is the same way that her fear of dogs could become extinct.

Another method that could have been used is operant conditioning. Operant conditioning was developed by B.F. Skinner who stated that sometimes behavior has no structure. Behavior just happens, but it can be shaped to what is acceptable. Skinner stated that some people have to adapt to the situational forces (Cervone, 2010). Sally had to adapt to experiencing fear of dogs probably because of a situation that she was in. A therapist would have to reinforce her with something she liked to be in proximity to a dog. The reinforcer would be greater when Sally moved closer to a dog.

Another method that Sally could have acquired the fear of dogs would be from observational learning. Albert Bandura created the social cognitive theory where he explains that behavior is observed and learned (Cervone, 2010). Bandura’s theory is that a child would observe behavior from a model that he or she want to be like. They observe the behavior of that model and then they copy the behavior (Mcloed, 2011). Sally could have dog phobia from any number of models she looked up to when she was in second grade. The models could have been her parents, older siblings, or...
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