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Learning Theory and Deconditioning Fear

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How does behavioral and learning theory help to explain and help a person who has 'phobic' fears? Explain and give examples.

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This solution applies the concepts of behavioral and learning theory in explanation of helping a person with 'phobic' fears. Examples are also provided.

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1. How does Learning Theory help to explain and provide assistance to a person who has fears? Explain and give examples.

Although Watson was a behaviorist who said that we should study only overt behavior, he was also an environmentalist who was very much on the nurture side of the nature-nurture controversy. Watson (1924) believed that we could train any child to be a doctor, lawyer, beggar, or even a thief regardless of the child's abilities, talents, tendencies, vocations, and race of her ancestors.

The study of emotion--Watson's major interest was the conditioning of emotion. He claimed that at birth there were only three unlearned emotional reactions-fear, rage, and love. Watson explained emotions in terms of observing three different physical responses, but for the sake of simplicity, Watson called them emotions. We will be looking specifically at Watson's ideas about fear.

Fear, Watson said (1924), is observed when infants suddenly jump or start, breath rapidly, clutch their hands, close their eyes, fall and cry. There are only two unconditional stimuli that elicit fear. One is a sudden noise; the other is loss of support (as when the baby's head is dropped). However, older children are afraid of all kinds of things-strange people, rats, dogs, the dark, and ...

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