Thursday, December 13, 2012

Phobias and Addictions

     Classical conditioning may affect how phobias can develop as well as operant conditioning may affect how addictions can develop. Classical and operant conditioning are learning styles, but they differ and extinction may be achieved in both.
     A phobia, in terms of psychology is a common anxiety disorder. Phobias are typically irrational fears of an object, situation or activity, where the suffer takes measures of avoidance, not to face one’s fear. Yates (2012), “specific phobia is characterized by extreme and persistent fear of specific objects or situations that present little or no real threat” (p. 1). Often measures of avoidance in relation to phobias are disproportional to any danger, which refer to the “irrational” measures of avoidance. All types of phobias may interfere with normal daily functioning, and overwhelming anxiety may develop. Phobias are can develop through classical conditioning. This occurs when a two stimuli are paired, which changes the reflex response of the first stimulus. Therefore, if one has an irrational fear of dogs (cynophobia), whereas dogs will attack and kill them, this can lead one to associate dogs with fear and anxiety. The sight of a dog in person, on television, or in a picture can lead to fear and anxiety.
     Addictions are dependencies on substances or activities, which results when one lacks the ability to limit or stop a certain activity. Therefore, a dependency develops. Addictions occur, when one becomes dependent on a particular substance (nicotine, alcohol, or narcotics) or particular activity (gambling, gaming, or sex). Substance use and engaging in activities can be pleasurable, although continued use or continued activity can become compulsive and can interfere with daily functioning, mental processing, and health. Mental illnesses, adverse behaviors, and criminal behaviors can also develop from addictions. Addictions are illnesses that often require treatment.
     Addictions can develop through operant conditioning. Addictions usually result when one associates a response, such as a positive emotional response that occurs at the same time as a particular effect, such as engaging in the use of a particular substance or engaging in a particular activity. Therefore, addictions occur through operant conditioning because of the repeated response that causes a particular effect, which is continually needed. The continual need causes one to continue the use of a particular substance or particular activity, hence addictions develop. For instance sex addiction. Sex can stimulate one in an abnormal pleasurable way, which causes one to experience a sensation that becomes continually desired or needed. Therefore, one can become addicted to sexual activity, which causes one to engage in it quite frequently. So frequently that daily functioning can be hindered. Operant conditioning can also reinforce certain behaviors, such as addictions, which confirms that behaviors resulting from pleasant stimuli accelerate the rate of recurrence of certain behaviors.
     Conditioning is a type of learning. Through classical conditioning, an environmental stimulus initiates a response, differing from operant conditioning because a behavior (or operant) produces an environmental response (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Classical conditioning is learning that involves an environmental stimulus that produces a response in an organism (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Therefore, a neutral stimulus that does not elicit a response is paired with a stimulus that does elicit a response and the pairing allows the neutral stimulus to elicit a response (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Operant conditioning is learning that occurs when an organism associates a response that occurs spontaneously with a particular environmental effect (Kowalski & Westen, 2011).
     Through operant learning there are positive and negative reinforcements. Positive reinforcement involves a process in which a presentation of a stimulus (a reward or payoff) after a behavior makes the behavior more likely to occur again (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Positive reinforcers are environmental consequence, which when presented can strengthen the possibility that a response will recur (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Negative reinforcement is the process whereby termination of an aversive stimulus (a negative reinforcer) makes a behavior more likely to recur (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Negative reinforcers are aversive or unpleasant stimuli that will strengthen a behavior if they are removed (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Although, classical and operant conditionings differ they share a particular feature, which is extinction.
Cherry (2012), “in psychology, extinction refers to the gradual weakening of a conditioned response that results in the behavior decreasing or disappearing” (p. 1). Kowalski and Westen (2011), “extinction in classical conditioning, the process by which a conditioned response is weakened by presentation of the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus” (p. 169). 
     The conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus are no longer paired. Cherry (2012), “in research on classical conditioning, Pavlov found that when extinction occurs, it does not mean that the subject returns to their unconditioned state” (p. 1). Spontaneous recovery can occur, whereas the response can reappear suddenly. When the smell of a perfume (unconditioned stimulus) is paired with the sight of a physically attractive person (conditioned stimulus) eventually would evoke a conditioned response of sexual desire. Although when the smell of perfume (unconditioned stimulus) becomes unpaired with the sight of the physically attractive person (conditioned stimulus), the sexual desire response (conditioned response) eventually would disappear.
     While in operant conditioning, the process by which the connection between an operant and a reinforcer or punishment is similarly broken (Kowalski and Westen, 2011). This occurs when the trained behavior no longer is reinforced or the reinforcement type used is no longer rewarding (Cherry, 2012). Cherry (2012), “in his research on operant conditioning, Skinner discovered that how and when a behavior is reinforced could influence how resistant it was to extinction” (p. 1). Skinner discovered that a partial schedule of reinforcement, even reinforcing a behavior only part of the time helped reduce the chances of extinction (Cherry, 2012). If using positive reinforcement to reward children with ice cream every time they tell that they have cleaned their rooms, they may stop telling their rooms are clean, but continue to clean them. This is because the children have become satiated and the ice cream may no longer be rewarding, therefore extinction of their trained behavior occurred.
     Classical conditioning does indeed affect how phobias are developed, and operant conditioning also affects how addictions are developed. Classical and operant conditioning are learning styles because of conditioning but they differ in how they condition. Extinction is achieved in both classical and operant conditioning, but in different ways.

Yates, W.R. (2012). Medscape. Retrieved from
Cherry, K. (2012)., Psychology. Retrieved from

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