Phobias and Addictions

Topics: Classical conditioning, Operant conditioning, Behaviorism Pages: 6 (994 words) Published: September 5, 2014


Phobias and Addictions

PSY 300
August 11, 2013
Dr. Hawkins
Phobias and Addictions
Learning is an unwavering change in an individual because of an experience or set of experiences (Ricker, 2013). Learning can be achieved in a variety of approaches, classical, and operant conditioning as well as positive reinforcement. The classical and operant conditioning methods were derived by B. F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov. Kowalski and Westen (2011) noted, “Classical conditioning as learning in which an environmental stimulus produces a response in an organism” (p. 164). Operant conditioning is “learning that results when an individual associates a response that occurs spontaneously with a particular environmental effect” (Kowalski & Westen, 2011, p. 173). The behavioral concepts of classical and operant conditioning are known as associative learning. Associative learning is based on the assumption that ideas and experiences reinforce one another and can be linked (Questia, 2013). Phobias and Classical Conditioning

A phobia is an awkward, unmanageable fear of an object or situation and can develop in an array of behaviors, including conditioning. Phobias can be acquired through classical conditioning by pairing a neutral stimulus with something that causes grave pain (NIU, 2003). Phobia reactions can be ongoing unless the individual is exposed to the extinction process. According to NIU (2003), during the extinction process, an individual must face the fear without the presence of the unconditioned stimulus. For example, in the experiment conducted by Watson and Rayner, Little Albert formed a phobia of white rats and other furry objects as a result of combining the white rat with a loud bang (Kowalski & Westen, 2011, p. 167). The phobia could have been taken away by constantly exposing Little Albert to the white rat without the loud bang. An alternative method to do away with a phobia is through counter conditioning. In counter conditioning, the conditioned stimulus is replaced with a positive response. Therefore, in the case of Little Albert, his phobia of the white rat could have been extinguished by pairing it with a positive response. This example of classical conditioning reveals how an individual learns to correlate a particular phobia with a specific object. Addictions and Operant Conditioning

Kowalski and Westen (2011) stated, “The basic idea behind operant conditioning is that behavior is controlled by its consequences” (p. 174). Merriam-Webster (2013), defines addiction as a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance or activity such as heroin, nicotine, alcohol, food, and gambling characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. An example of operant conditioning is drinking alcohol. For most people, drinking alcohol is often followed by pleasurable feelings or relief from anxiety. This is an operant response because it is a voluntary behavior that has consequences, which can lead to either an increase or decrease in one’s behavior. An addiction cultivates when a behavior is encountered with reinforcement. If the reinforcement is positive, the conduct transpires more frequent. Distinguishing Between Classical and Operant Conditioning

Classical and operant conditioning are two important concepts in behavioral psychology. Although both techniques result in learning, each process differs from one another. Classical conditioning described by a Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov focuses on placing a neutral warning sign before a response. Operant conditioning described by an American psychologist B.F. Skinner focuses on applying reinforcement or punishment after a behavior. Classical conditioning pairs a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus. Operant conditioning uses reinforcement or punishment to increase or decrease a behavior. In the classical conditioning example of ophidiophobia, the snake was changed or...


References: Kalat, J.W. (2013). Introduction to Psychology (11th ed.). Wadsworth, Inc.
Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
NIU (2003). Phobias & Classical Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.3.niu.edu/acad/psych/Millis/History/2003/phobias.htm
Questia(2013). Associative Learning. Retrieved from http://questia.com/library.education/educational-psychology/learning-styles-and-theories/associative-learning
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