Phobias can be defined as a pathological disorder, which involve an irrational anxiety or fear that is directed towards a particular object of situation.

Phobias can be split into three kinds:

  • Specific - e.g heights, dogs
  • Social - afraid of social situations
  • Agoraphobia - fear of having a panic attack where no one offers help, likebeing on a train
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Operant Conditioning

  • A behaviour that is rewarded will increase in frequency. A behaviour that is punished will decrease in frequency.
  • It can be applied to phobias because: you are rewarded when you get away from a situation that you fear (anxiety level falls). This is negative reinforcement. Your anxiety increasing in a situation you fear in positive punishment.
  • This can be used to explain how a phobia is maintained. Negative reinforcement means it can be difficult to unlearn a phobia.
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Classical Conditioning

  • Classical conditioning is learning through association. It occurs when an association is made between a previously unlearned response and a neutral stimulus.
  • It can be applied to phobias because a phobia can be created if a stimulus is paired with a fear response (for example, creating a fear of fluffy things in Little Albert).
  • Therefore, classical conditioning can be used to explain how phobias are created.
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Social Learning Theory

  • This is learning through observation and imitation of role models.
  • It can be applied to phobias because: If someone sees a role model showing a fear response, they are likely to remember and reproduce this behaviour. They may be motivated to imitate the behaviour as they may want to be like their role model.
  • This can be used to explain how phobias can be created and maintained.
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