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Some Practical Applications of. Classical Conditioning. Understanding Phobias. John B. Watson was the first person to study human emotions systematically

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some practical applications of

Some Practical Applications of


understanding phobias
Understanding Phobias
  • John B. Watson was the first person to study human emotions systematically
  • Because of his and subsequent research, we now recognize that most of our emotional reactions are learned and they are learned mainly through classical conditioning
  • Watson & Rayner (1920 & 1921) began their research by testing a number of infants to see their reactions to fire, dogs, cats, laboratory rats, and other stimuli thought to be innately frightening; none of these were
understanding phobias3
Understanding Phobias
  • Watson & Rayner (1920) found that a loud noise did elicit an innate fear reaction (crying and other fear-like responses)
  • They then did the famous Little Albert study where they paired a white lab rat (CS) with striking a steel bar with a hammer behind Albert’s head (US)
  • Little Albert began to show fear (crying and crawling away = CR) to the white lab rat fairly quickly
factors in phobic conditioning
Factors in Phobic Conditioning
  • Observational Learning-acquiring a fear CR through observing someone else showing fear to the CS
  • Temperament-an organism’s base level of emotionality & reactivity to stimulation (poodles vs. german shepherd dogs)
  • Preparedness-the tendency to associate some CS-US associations more readily than others
  • History of Control- having some control over events in their lives immunizes organisms against a higher level of fear associated with strange new stimuli
treating phobias
Treating Phobias
  • Mary Cover Jones (1924) was another of Watson’s students
  • She was the first to show that classical conditioning could help people overcome fears as well as acquire them
  • Jones’ most famous subject was Peter, a toddler with a fear of rabbits
  • She used counterconditioning on Peter
treating phobias7
Treating Phobias
  • Counterconditioning
    • One CS is presented at the same time as another event, that elicits an incompatible response
  • Jones (1924) brought a rabbit (CS that elicits anxiety) into the same room but far away from Peter while he was eating his cookies and milk snack (CS that elicits good feelings)
  • Jones did this each day and gradually brought the rabbit closer and closer until there was no fear to the rabbit (eventually the rabbit was put into his lap!)
treating phobias8
Treating Phobias

Systematic Desensitization (Joseph Wolpe,1958)

  • Train person to fall into deep relaxation (meditation)
  • Create hierarchy of fear eliciting stimuli
    • from least to most strong example of stimulus
  • Gradually (from least to most) pair each item of hierarchy with relaxation
    • without producing fear (because of deep relaxation)
    • combines counterconditioning, generalization, and extinction
treating phobias9
Treating Phobias
  • Paul (1969) conducted a study with students that had severe anxieties about public speaking
  • He had 3 treatment groups
  • Reexamined the students 2 years later and found the following amounts of improvement above pretreatment levels:
    • 85% in the systematic desensitization group
    • 50% in the insight-oriented psychotherapy group (focuses on identifying the cause of the anxiety)
    • 22% in the untreated control group
treating phobias10
Treating Phobias
  • Davison (1968) conducted a study with students that had an intense fear of snakes
  • He gave them a 13-step test to assess their initial fear (using a real snake in a jar, up to touching one)
  • Groups:
    • CS-UCS group: systematic desensitization
    • CS2-UCS group: imagined childhood disturbances + relaxation
    • CS-noUS group: imagined snakes but no relaxation
    • No treatment: control group
  • The only group to show improvement (an average of 5 steps closer to live snake) was the systematic desensitization group
more phobia treatments
More Phobia Treatments
  • Flooding
    • prolonged exposure to the feared stimulus
    • provides maximal opportunity for the fear response to extinguish
    • Problem: may involve too much stress for the phobic individual
flooding to treat phobias
Flooding to Treat Phobias
  • Rothbaum (1995) was the first to use virtual reality technology in an experiment to provide exposure to the feared stimulus
  • She had people with a fear of heights wear a helmet that presented computer simulated scenes:
    • walking on foot bridges & outdoor balconies, and riding up a glass elevator (up to 50 floors high)
  • Resulted in a marked reduction in fear of heights (but equal to subjects exposed to the actual heights)
eliminating problem behaviors
Eliminating Problem Behaviors
  • Aversion Therapy
    • pair the problem behavior with an aversive stimulus
    • as an association forms the attractiveness of the problem behavior is reduced
  • Some pairings of CS and US are not as effective as others (preparedness)
    • Drinking alcohol paired with electric shock
counteracting conditioned taste aversion
Counteracting Conditioned Taste Aversion
  • Broberg & Bernstein (1987) tried a procedure with children being treated with chemotherapy that Revusky (1971) had found effective with rats
  • They gave the children a distinctive-flavored Lifesaver candy (CS) between their evening meal and the chemo session (US) and found that 12 of 15 children ate the food at the meal again later
  • On another occasion the same children were not given the Lifesaver candy between the evening meal and chemotherapy, and they found that only 6 of the 15 children would eat that meal again
  • Pair products with stimuli that elicit positive emotions (e.g., a form of second-order conditioning)
  • Stuart et al. (1987) showed a series of slides to college students that contained neutral scenes, pleasant scenes, and various products
    • Experimental group = Brand L toothpaste was presented several times and always followed by pleasant scenes
    • Control group = Brand L toothpaste was always followed by neutral scenes
  • Afterwards she found that Experimental students rated Brand L significantly more positively than the Control group did
conditioned allergic reactions
Conditioned Allergic Reactions
  • People may develop allergies through conditioning
  • Pair a neutral stimulus (CS=sight of flowers) with an allergic reaction (US=pollen which produces a UR=allergic response)
  • Person will begin releasing histamines (CR=allergic response) at the sight of the flower (not just to the pollen)
conditioned immune responses
Conditioned Immune Responses

Conditioned immunosuppression

  • Ader & Cohen (1975) study with rats
  • CS (Sweet water)→US (drug) = UR (immunosuppression – immune system produces less antibodies)
  • Tested by injecting foreign cells, then giving half the rats the CS (sweet water) and half the rats plain water (no CS)
  • Rats given the CS showed a CR of immunosuppression resulting in fewer antibodies to the foreign cells than rats given plain water
conditioned immunosuppression as a treatment for lupus
Conditioned Immunosuppression as a Treatment for Lupus
  • Olness & Ader (1992) treated an 11-year old girl with severe lupus
  • Standard treatment is cyclophosphamide (an immunosuppressant drug), once per month for 1 year
  • They gave the girl a compound CS (taste of cod liver oil & smell of rose) followed by cyclophosphamide on 6 occasions, and on alternating months gave her just the CS
  • She showed a significant reduction in symptoms and still looked good 5 years later
conditioned immune responses19
Conditioned Immune Responses
  • Conditioned Enhancement of the Immune System
    • Kirschbaum et al. (1994)
    • CS (sweet sherbet) → US (adrenaline) = UR (enhanced natural killer cell activity)
    • Following this pairing in human subjects, the CS elicited a CR (increased natural killer cell activity)
  • Enhancement of the immune system is harder to get; results are inconsistent