Phobias and Addictions
February 22, 2012
Dr. Amy Loder Psy.D
Phobias and Addictions
A textbook definition of phobia is an irrational fear of a specific object or situation. How does such an irrational fear begin can probably be explained through classical conditioning. In other words fears are learned. Learning is any relatively permanent change in the way an organism responds based on its experience. The famous experiment of Watson and Rayner with “Little Albert” shows clearly how classical conditioning can account for irrational fears, or phobias.
This example of classical ...view middle of the document...
Albert had learned to fear the rat. Not only did little Albert fear the rat, but also he exhibited stimulus generalization; which is the tendency for learned behavior to occur in response to stimuli that were not present during conditioning but that are similar to the conditioned stimulus. In one day Watson and Rayner presented Albert with a rabbit, a dog, a fur coat, cotton wool, and a Santa Claus mask. In all conditions Albert reacted negatively. The Little Albert studies show clearly that irrational fears can be learned early in childhood, the textbook states that many such fears are acquired and elicited through the activation of subcortical neural pathways, between the visual system and the amygdala. Adult knowledge may be of little use in counteracting them because the crucial neural circuits are outside cortical control and are activated before the cortex even gets the message. A major comp
Addiction on the other hand might be developed through operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is learning that results when an organism associates a response that occurs spontaneously with a particular environmental effect; also called instrumental conditioning. In classical conditioning, an environmental stimulus initiates a response, whereas in operant conditioning a behavior produces and environmental response. Addiction is defined as the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing or activity. Most addictions thrive on positive reinforcement, for instance, gamblers at a casino are showered with variable ratio schedules of reinforcement and variable ratio schedules generally produce rapid, constant responding. Addicted gamblers on a variable ratio schedule of winning and losing, find themselves compelled by the...