Behavioural approach to phobias

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Behavioural model
Behavioural explanations consist of two types of conditioning
Classical conditioning: phobias occur through association of traumatic events with a negative
fear and anxiety with neutral stimuli. Phobias occur due to the avoidance of certain objects
or situations.
Operant conditioning explains how phobias are maintained. When the phobic situations are
avoided this eliminates the fear aspects and any negative feelings are reduced. This
eliminates the element of fear by reinforcing avoidance responses making them more likely
to reoccur. The lessening of anxiety is seen as a reward and people are more often to repeat
what has been rewarded and not repeat those who have punishment like the anxiety of
Social conditioning (SLT) explains phobias as being a as being an observation and imitation of
others around them. Traumatic events are seen and seen by others as the only thing that
can happen to someone.
Watson and Rayner: little albert, fear of white furry objects. Due to the association of the
white rabbit with the loud noise. This produced a fear response.
Gray: two processes theory to explain how operant conditioning strengthens phobias
acquired through classical conditioning. Fear response and avoidance response strengthens
the phobia.
Ost and Hugdahl: witnessed his grandfather vomit while dying which then produced a specific
vomiting phobia. Contemplated suicide while feeling nauseated.
^^ also found that nearly half of all people with phobias haven't had an anxious experience
with their object of fear and many hadn't had an experience with their object at all.
Munjack: studied a group of people with driving phobia and found that only 50% of them had
actually had a frightening experience In a car. 50% of the control group who didn't have a
phobia had had an accident. ­individual differences
Research that supports other models- ignores genetic factors which is supported by

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Kendler et al (1992) interviewed 722 female twins with a lifetime history of phobia. They
found that MZ twins had significantly lower concordance rates for agoraphobia than DZ
twins, which runs counter to genetic hypothesis.
Researcher suggested that this finding might reflect a protective effect of close emotional
bond between MZ twins.
Mineka and cook 1989 -
·Their participants were pit in a situation where various stimuli were sometimes followed by
and electric shock. The stimuli included snakes, spiders and damaged electrical outlet.…read more

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However, the advantage of being a reductionist theory is that it makes researches falsifiable.
Therefore we are able to generate solid findings for further research.
Nature vs. Nurture: overemphasises the importance of nurture and completely ignores the
role of nature. This ignores ideas like genetic and evolutionary explanations that explains
people already have a predisposition before there is a likely event that triggers their phobia.…read more


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