The behavioural approach to explaining phobias - The two process model

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  • The two-process model
    • Acquisition by classical conditioning
      • John Watson and Rosalie Rayner (1920) created a phobia in a 9 month old baby called 'little Albert'
      • Showed no unusual anxiety and tried to play with a white rat when he saw it
      • Neutral stimulus (rat), unconditioned stimulus (loud noise), unconditioned response (fear or loud noise) -> conditioned stimulus (rat), conditioned stimulus (fear of rat)
      • Conditioning then generalised to similar objects. Albert showed distress when he saw objects like a non-white rabbit, a fur coat and watson wearing a santa claus beard made of cotton balls
      • Classical conditioning involves learning to associate something of which we initially have no fear with something that already triggers a fear response
    • Maintenance by operant conditioning
      • Responses acquired by classical conditioning tend to decline over time
      • Phobias are often long lasting
      • Mowrer suggested that whenever we avoid a phobic stimulus we successfully escape the fear and anxiety we would have suffered if we had remained there
      • Mowrer has explained this as a result of classical conditioning
      • This reduction in fear reinforces the avoidance behaviour and so the phobia is maintained
      • Takes place when our behaviour is reinforced or punished
      • Reinforcement tends to increase the frequency of behaviour
      • Negative reinforcement: individual avoids a situation that is unpleasant. Results in a desirable consequence so behaviour will be repeated
    • States that phobias are acquired by classical conditioning and continue because of operant conditioning
    • Emphasises the role of learning in the acquisition of behaviour
    • Focuses on behaviour (what we can see)
    • Avoidance, endurance, panic (geared towards explaining these)
    • Hobart Mowrer (1960) proposed the two-process model based on the behavioural approach to phobias


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