Phobias: Connected to classical conditioning

Phobias: Connected to classical conditioning

A Story by Ryzo

This was a short essay i had to produce in psychology class in college.


Psychology. It is the scientific study of human behaviour, one very important behaviour which, without it we could not survive. That important survival skill is called learning. In psychology the definition of learning is any change in human behaviour that occurs as the result from an experience. Some unpleasant experiences can lead us to be extremely afraid of allowing them to occur again. This behaviour is known as a phobia.

Classical conditioning refers to any behaviour that is a direct reaction to the stimuli affecting or surrounding that person. A Russian psychologist named Ian Pavlov found this through an experiment he carried out on his dog. When food was presented to his dog, the dog responded by producing saliva. Pavlov then rang a bell and got no response before presenting his dog with food. After many repeated times ringing the bell and presenting the food after the bell had been rung, the dog responded to the bell ringing before food was presented by producing saliva.

This meant that the stimulus (bell) caused the dog to behave and respond in that particular way (reflex). This means that the dog has learned to associate food with the bell.  If the stimulus changes the dog’s behaviour, a stimulus can therefore create a change in behaviour depending what the stimulus is for example a child gets barked at by a dog the child cries and is in distress and now has a fear of the dog (stimulus). As a manifestation of this fear a phobia can occur. 

An experiment carried out called the Little Albert case study is a prime example of the creation of a phobia by the use of classical conditioning. The study was performed in 1920 the participant, Albert was eleven-months old. The aim was to find out if our emotions can be conditioned in the same way as our reflexes. What happend during the experiment was that Albert was placed in a room playing with his pet white rabbit, every time he was presented with his rat the researches hit two steel metal bars together. In responce to this Albert produced a fear reflex and was very distressed. This was repeated several times but in response to being presented with another fluffy animal without the noise the steel bars created Albert immediately began to get distressed. Similar fluffy objects including a coat had the same affect on Albert when presented he simply got distressed. Although an unethical experiment it has shown that Albert has produced a fear of anything familiar to the white rabbit because of the shock and fright he got when the two metal bars were hit against each other to make a loud noise. This therefore concludes that classical conditioning is directly linked to the manifestation of phobias.

To summarise, from the case studies presented it is clear that phobias can be created through the process of classical conditioning which is the response a person gives towards a particular stimulus. Although depending on the response given positive or negative, i.e. fear or excitement varies on the chance of a phobia being manifested. It also is depends on the stimulus the person is subjected to if they already have a fear of it e.g. spiders. So overall it all depends on the type of person they are and the type of stimulus that they are affected by which may lead to the manifestation of a phobia to occur.   

© 2011 Ryzo

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"behaviour which, without it we could not survive" - "behaviour without which we could not survive."
Psychology is the study of more than just how humans learn.
comma after "In psychology"
"as the result from" - as the result of"
"Some unpleasant experiences can lead us to be extremely afraid of allowing them to occur again. This behaviour is known as a phobia." - This is not a phobia. What distinguishes a phobia from other fears is that it happens for no reason connected with the thing that is feared. A fear of cows that occurs after being chased by a cow is not a phobia - it is quite reasonable, under the circumstances. A fear of cars that occurs after being chased by a cow would be a phobia.
"After many repeated times ringing the bell and presenting the food after the bell had been rung, the dog responded" This part needs to be reworded; as it is right now, it suggests that the dog was the one ringing the bell. :)
comma after "what the stimulus is "
period after "by a dog"
comma after "of this fear"
period after "performed in 1920"
comma after "Albert"
period, not comma, after "white rabbit"
"with his rat" - "rabbit" - comma after
comma after "In response to this"
comma after "several times"
comma after "the steel bars created"
period after "same affect on Albert" (Shouldn't that be "effect"?)
comma after "unethical experiment"
"familiar to the white rabbit" - "similar to the white rabbit"
comma after "classical conditioning"
comma after "response given"
comma after "fear or excitement"
comma after "fear of it"
comma after "So overall"
comma after "affected by"

The language of this piece is generally awkward and somewhat convoluted, suggesting that it is not written in the author's usual style. Change of topics needs smoother transitions.

Posted 10 Years Ago

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Added on June 7, 2011
Last Updated on June 10, 2011
Tags: essay, psychology



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