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Phobias and Addictions
Families often pat their dogs and cats when they successfully catch a ball. Teachers and parents reward children with grades and gifts on their good performance with the motive that they continue to progress in a similar and a better way. At times, while travelling down the road some buildings or shops remind people about incidents or beloveds. These are some of the examples where environment is playing a major role in shaping the way individuals behave or respond. In this regard, behaviorism is a school of psychology which emphasizes the idea that learning occurs because of the environment. In other words, this school of thought says that the environment of an individual shapes his behavior. Therefore, a new behavior can be learned or unlearned by the different aspects of behaviorism; classical and operant conditioning.
There are a number of experiences and situations which almost everyone can relate to. For instance, a fragrance may remind someone of their loved one or a location might ring a bell about an event. These examples help understand classical conditioning, which involves association of (two) stimuli. This was discovered by a Russian scholar; Ivan Pavlov. He conducted an experiment on a dog to explain the process of non-conscious learning which occurs in humans in their daily lives. The dog salivates when exposed to food which is the unconditioned stimulus as it causes a natural response of salivation (unconditioned response). However, the experimenter used to ring a bell which is the conditioned stimulus (incorporated deliberately here) before the food was presented. This procedure was repeated for several times until eventually the dog salivated only upon hearing the bell. In this case salivation upon the tone is the conditioned response which occurred because of the conditioned stimulus. Although the dog naturally salivates on seeing the food but salivating upon hearing the bell is the learned behavior. The dog was conditioned to respond in this way. Thus, the situations and the stimuli to which people react with fear or joy are actually learned responses through associations (Prokasy, W. 1987).
Furthermore, classical conditioning is one of the several reasons in causing different emotional reactions. One of these reactions include fear or in more specific terms; phobia. It is the irrational fear of a particular thing or a situation where the fear is so intense that it infers and hinders the normal functioning of the phobic individual. Phobias may arise because of associating a neutral stimulus with negative emotions such as fear or anxiety. Consequently, in order to keep away from such emotional responses, the person would avoid the situation causing it. For instance, a man regularly takes the same route for traveling from his home to the office. However, one day he breaks his leg in an accident which occurred near a particular red building on his way from home to office. As a result, he becomes afraid and anxious on passing by that red building and would find alternate routes. Moreover, coming across other red buildings in the city also scares him. Therefore, the fear has been associated with the red building which was previously a neutral stimulus. In a similar way, phobias developing because of classical conditioning can also be explained through an example of a girl who is claustrophobic and achluophobia. On the first day of her college, she was ragged. She was taken to a dark room and left alone for several hours. As a result she sleeps with a light on and intensely afraid of closed spaces (Makin P, 2004).
Phobias can be reduced and hence diminished through the process of extinction. This is done by exposing the person to fear in the absence of the unconditioned response. This can be easily understood by the experiment done on little Albert who via classical conditioning learned to fear rats. The phobia towards white rats and similar furry objects was a result of association between rats and a loud noise. However, the phobia could have been gradually diminished by exposing little Albert towards the white rat but without the loud noise. Therefore, people are phobic towards a number of different things and situations like water, height, and airplane. There fear can…[continue]
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