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Jones (1924): Curing a boy’s phobia


  • To investigate whether a phobia in a little boy could be deconditioned and whether this would generalize to other objects.



  •     Peter was 2yrs 10mths old when Jones started the observations.
  •         She watched Peter playing with beads in his cot while the experimenter showed him a white rat.  Peter screamed and moved away.When the rat touched Peter’s beads he protested but didn’t when another child touched his beads.
  •     Next day – Peter’s reaction to different objects was observed which showed that his fear of the rat had generalized to other objects.  Peter was also shown a rabbit and was more afraid of this than the rat so a rabbit was used for deconditioning.     

    The therapy:

-          Cover used both CLASSICAL CONDITIONING & SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY to help sure Peter’s phobia

-          Cover developed a TOLERANCE SERIES whereby Peter would gradually get closer to the rabbit.

-          Food gave Peter pleasure and he felt relaxed (UCS (food) -à UCR (pleasure))

-          As he took steps to moving along the tolerance series he was given food.

-          Cover was aiming to get Peter to ASSOCIATE pleasure with the rabbit.

-          She was trying to use classical conditioning to reverse the phobia.

-          Peter also had daily play sessions with 3 children and the rabbit (the others weren’t scared of the rabbit).  He saw the other children being happy around the rabbit, and being praised.  (SLT)

-          New situations were used to get Peter closer to the rabbit.


-          The changes in Peter’s behavior were not steady  or continuous or equally spaced in time (see graph below).

-          Peter’s behavior improved and worsened e.g. when he was scratched by the rabbit.

-          The tolerance series were created by six people’s descriptions of the improvement in Peter’s behavior.

-          The other children acted as role models which helped Peter move closer to the rabbit.

-          He also lost his fear of cotton, the coat and feathers.

-          He also accepted new animals such as frogs, worms and a mouse.


-          Both classical conditioning and social learning helped to decondition Peter.

-          The deconditioning also reduced generalized fears and helped Peter to cope with new animals.



  • Detailed observations over a long period. These showed Peter’s progress.
  • Jones asked other people to order the tolerance series so avoided bias.
  • Used different ways to help Peter.


  • The gaps between sessions were variable so progress could be due to time rather than deconditioning.
  • Jones used two different techniques


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