Behavioural approach to explaining phobias

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  • Created by: Psycheart
  • Created on: 21-03-16 19:12


The two-process model:

Classical Conditioning: Initiation

Phobia acquired through association.

·         (UCS) being bitten-> creates fear (UCR)

·         (NS) Dog produces (CR) fear response

Operant Conditioning: Maintenance:

Classical conditioning doesn’t explain why individuals remain fearful,

Likelihood of a behaviour being repeated depends on if the outcome is rewarding.

In the case of a phobia:

The avoidance/escape of the phobic stimulus reduces fear (negative reinforcement).

Social Learning:

A neo-behaviourist explanation.

Phobias may also be acquired through modelling the behaviour of others.

E.g. seeing a parent react negatively to a spider.

Fear may lead to the child believing the behaviour may be rewarding

I.e. fearful person gets attention.


Importance of classical conditioning:

Sue et al (1994)-

Not everyone who has a phobia can recall an incident by which the phobia appeared.

Suggests different phobias may be the result of different processes.


Agoraphobics- may be explained by a specific incident.

Arachnophobias- most likely to cite their phobia to modelling as the cause.

Ost (1987)-

It's possible


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