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Behaviorist and Learning Aspects of Personality - Research Paper Example

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Behaviorist and Learning Aspects of Personality

Extinction is a characteristic of classical conditioning in which the association between the stimulus and learned response is weakened every time the stimulus (triangle) is presented without the associated unconditioned stimulus (loud noise). However, the persistence of learned fear makes it unlikely that it will dissipate over time due to the self-strengthening mechanism described above. To treat learned fear and phobias, extinction must usually be employed in a behavioral therapy paradigm. A process known as systematic desensitization is one of the most successful and commonly used procedures for treating phobias. These intense and irrational fears can take many forms (fear of dogs, snakes, open spaces, cheese) and are quite resistant to natural extinction effects. Along with the self-sustaining theory, phobias may retain their power because people tend to do everything they can to avoid the eliciting stimulus. Extinction cannot occur without exposure to the stimulus. Systematic desensitization addresses these issues directly. In order to allow extinction to occur, systematic desensitization ensures exposure to the unpaired conditioned stimulus, but does so in a gradual manner to minimize the fear response and eliminate self-sustainment of the phobia. The process is carried out in three parts (Foa, 2010). First, a fear hierarchy is constructed, listing situations related to the phobia in increasing intensity of discomfort. Next, the patient is trained in progressive relaxation (or deep muscle relaxation). This training will allow the patient to induce a state of calm through relaxation of specific muscle groups. Achieving the intended level of calm takes about twenty minutes, after which exposure to the fear-eliciting stimulus can begin. The typical fear hierarchy is made up of 10 to 15 steps, and begins with the least fear-evoking scenario that was established in the first step of systemic desensitization. The patient is instructed to imagine the scene, followed by a pause where the patient is told to use the relaxation technique that was learned in step two. This process is repeated until the patient reports no fear to the scenario. At this point, the next situation in the hierarchy is confronted. The process can continue, usually through multiple sessions, to gradually extinguish the fear in a step-by-step process (McNally, 2007). The approach can be augmented to use humor instead of relaxation in the second step, or by implementing virtual reality technology to assist with realism and precision. Modeling is an alternative approach to treating phobias or fears that are the result of conditioning. In this technique, patients watch a model (usually on video) that is shown interacting with the fear-causing stimulus. The intensity of the scene is increased as the patient observes. According to modeling theory, the likelihood of performing an act increases when a model is observed doing that act. Observing a model gradually influences the subject to partake in activities that involve their phobias, leading to the extinction of the fear. This approach has several advantages to systematic desensitization. The video aspect is more appropriate for young patients who may not be able to use their imagination properly and requires less instructor time. References Foa, E. B. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dialogues in Clinical Neurosciences, 12(2), 199-207. McNally, R. J., ...Show more

Summary

Assignment 1 Fear, sometimes to the extent of phobia, can be the result of classical conditioning. For example, if a loud noise (which naturally elicits a fear response) is consistently paired with a fear-neutral stimulus (like the sight of a triangle), then the neutral stimulus will come to elicit the fear response…
Author : champlinboris
Behaviorist and Learning Aspects of Personality essay example
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