Phobias and Addictions Briana Lee PSYC/300 June 14, 2011 Kaisa Freeman Phobias and Addictions Two emotional difficulties that learning theorists can account for are phobias and addictions. Through the use of both operant and classical conditioning, theorist may one day be able to understand phobias and addictions and guide sufferers to a place of better mental health. At the moment, theorists believe that sufferers are at the point of making irrational choices. Theorists hope is that they will be able to guide the sufferers to making rational decisions.

Phobias Being afraid of something occurs in 100 percent of the human population. Being so afraid of that something to the point of chills, sweating, or even passing out, takes the fear to a level that not all humans are familiar with. Turning a fear of something from rational to irrational is how phobias become a reality for so many. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder which makes a person experience an increased level of fear to something that poses little or no actual danger. There are several hundred different types of phobias in the world today.

Some may seem odd to some people while others understand there points exactly. Phobias are linked to the Pavlovian model, also called classical conditioning. Classical Conditioning Classical conditioning was first used by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. “Classical conditioning was the first type of learning to be studied systematically” (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Classical conditioning occurs when there is an interaction between two different stimuli, environmental and a naturally occurring stimulus. There are four different types of processes that can be associated with classical conditioning.

They include: The unconditioned stimulus, the unconditioned response, the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response. The most popular example of this is when Pavlov was studying dog’s digestive tracks and would ring a bell every time he fed the dogs. Eventually just the sound of the bell would make the dogs salivate and become hungry. In this example the conditioned stimulus would be the sound of the bell and the conditioned response would be the dogs salivated and becoming hungry. Extinction and Classical Conditioning Extinction in classical conditioning refers to the process by which a controlled response is weakened by presentation of the controlled stimulus without the unconditioned response” (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). An example of this would be: Kate’s alarm clock goes off every morning at 7 a. m. When the alarm goes off, her husband throws his arm over her and hits her in the face in an attempt to turn the alarm off. When Kate hears the alarm go off, eventually she begins to cover her face immediately. Kate and her husband decide to change places on the bed and her husband stops hitting her in the face.

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For the first couple of days that the couple has changed places, Kate covers her face with her hand even though she is not being hit at the sound of the alarm. Eventually, however, Kate does not cover her face anymore at the sound of the alarm. Addiction A second type of emotional difficulty is called addiction. Addiction can be defined as “an uncontrollable compulsion to repeat a behavior regardless of its negative consequences. A person who is addicted is sometimes called and addict” ( GNU Free Documentation License, 2010). The most common types of addictions would be to alcohol or some sort of drugs.

These two addictions cause a person to feel as though they have a sense of wellbeing and are well taken care of. Being “high” allows a person to override the feeling of having to make logical decisions and allow them to make irrational choices. While alcohol and drugs are two of the most common addictions, they certainly are not the only ones. People can be addicted to many different things ranging from shopping, gambling, smoking, sex, and even eating. When a person is engaging in their addiction, they feel good about themselves and the things they are doing. It is very hard to fight the addiction because of the good feeling one gets.

Operant Conditioning One of the most commonly used theories, in the quest to find out why people become addicted to certain things, is operant conditioning. Operant Conditioning is “a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. ” (Cherry, 2011) B. F. Skinner first used the term and believed that a person’s thoughts and reasons for performing certain actions could not be used to explain why a person behaved in a certain manner.

Skinner believed that a person should look at what was going on around another person that was causing the behavior to occur. There are four different factors that are incorporated into operant conditioning. They include positive and negative reinforcements and positive and negative punishment. An example of operant conditioning is potty training. When parent promise their child that they will give them a sticker to put on the wall or an ice cream if they have had no accidents the entire day, the child is more willing to use the potty. Operant conditioning can also be used to help stop a certain behavior from happening.

An example of this would be taking away a video game or not allowing a child to go to a skate party if they fail their spelling test. Extinction and Addictions As with phobias, addictions can be controlled and even eliminated completely. The process of extinction through operant conditioning can be done in several ways. Pavlov came up with four different stages. They include the equivalent stage, the paradoxical stage, the ultra-paradoxical stage, and what was called the flooding stage. During the flooding stage the dogs used in an above example, forgot all things that were learned when they were faced with the thought of dying.

In humans the same thing can happen. When a person is faced with the fact that their addiction could actually kill them and they will leave behind several loved one, they may decide to give up their addiction and forget the feelings they once had while high. Conclusion Humans learn through conditioning, conditioned responses, and observed and conditioned responses experienced. There are two types of conditioning. Classical conditioning is based mainly on environmental stimuli. Operant conditioning usually follows classical conditioning being the result. It is the cause and affects principle.

Both operant and classical conditioning are used to describe and figure out phobias and addictions. These are two emotional difficulties that theorist are still trying to control to this day. References Cherry, K. (2011). Introduction to Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://psychology. about. com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/introopcond. htm GNU Free Documentation License. (2010). Addiction. Retrieved from http://www. wordiq. com/definition/Addiction Kowalski, R. , & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.


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