Explaining Phobias

Topics: Classical conditioning, Fear conditioning, Sigmund Freud Pages: 5 (1673 words) Published: December 16, 2012
Explaining Phobia Paper
Stacy R. Lee
University of Phoenix-Online
November 26, 2012

In this paper the principles of operational, classical, and observational learning theories will be discussed as those theories pertain to the Case Study of Little Hans. I will review Sigmund Freud’s case study of Little Hans, the child that developed a fear of horses, and relate how this case is explained by the above mentioned theories. I will also discuss this case from the psychoanalytic perspective. The case of Little Hans and the Psychoanalytic Perspective

The case study of Little Hans was published in 1909 by Sigmund Freud. Little Hans did not receive treatment directly from Freud himself but rather from his own father. Little Hans is noted as a five year old boy with an extreme fear of horses, particularly of being bitten by a horse, and who refuses to leave his house. Freud noted that the boy’s father kept detailed notes of his son’s behavior and treatment and that he often discussed this with Freud. The beginning of Little Hans behaviors started showing when he was three years old. Little Hans became fascinated with his penis, which he called his “widdler”. Freud noted that this is the beginning of the phallic stage of his Psycho-Sexual Stages of Development. Due to Little Hans’ constant touching of and talking about his penis his mother threatened to take him to a doctor and have his penis removed. This Freud noted as the beginning of what he posited as Castration Anxiety. Little Hans often had fantasies and dreams about penises. He also enquired to whether his mother had a penis and shared that he imagined hers was as large as a horse’s penis. This supports Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex. Once Little Hans made the reference to how large a horse’s penis is and how firm his mother was he began to have bad dreams. Due to these bad dreams he would frequently end up in bed with his mother. Little Hans became extremely frighten when walking down the street with his nurse and needed to return home to be with his mother. At the point the fear of being bitten by a horse outside of his home because a fear of being bitten by a horse in his room, thus, Little Hans’ fear of horses became a full blown phobia (McLeod, 2008).

Though Little Hans’ father explained to him that his fear of horses was non-sense, that he only adored his mother and that his fear of horses was because of his over interests in penis’ Freud suggested that Little Hans’ father also explain that his mother did not have a penis. This helped some but despite Little Hans’ fear of horses he still wished to look at them. Little Hans’ fears continued to get worse as he grew older. He also continued with a growing resentment for his father wishing to have his mother only to himself. This is noted due to his behavior and reactions to spending holidays and vacations with only his mother with little to no presence of his father (Cervon & Pervin, 2010). Classical Conditioning-Behavioral Perspective

Classical conditioning requires the existence of an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) that elicits an unconditioned response (UCR), that is, that reliably elicits an unlearned response, in the experimental subject. UCRs (unlearned responses) are also known as reflexes. The UCR is usually a physiological response that can reliably be elicited by a UCS, for example, salivation (the UCR) in response to the smell or sight of food (the UCS), particularly if one is hungry, or an eye blink (the UCR) in response to a puff of air (the UCS) blown into the eye. The classical conditioning procedure also requires a conditioned stimulus (CS), a stimulus of which the subject can be made aware but which initially does not cause the UCR, followed by a conditioned response, the same response as the UCR, but eventually in reaction to a different stimulus (Cervon & Pervin, 2010). 

From a classical conditioning-behavioral perspective the case study of Little Hans...
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