December 10, 2012
Phobias and Addictions
Phobias and addictions are two behaviors which can be understood and explained by applying the principles of conditioning. Fears are known to be developed through unconditioned, conditioned and neutral stimuli while resulting in conditioned responses as demonstrated through classical conditioning. Addictions are known to be developed through the use of reinforcers and punishments such as found using operant conditioning techniques. Extinction of a behavior is achieved through the use of either form of conditioning.
In order to distinguish the difference between classical and operant conditioning, it is important to remember that the purpose of conditioning is to affect a particular change. The difference is where the change is affected. The purpose of classical conditioning is to create a change in the subject within its environment as demonstrated through the development of fears or phobias. Operant conditioning is to affect change in the subject’s environment as seen in addiction development.
Phobia’s can be developed through classical conditioning by the use of different types of stimuli and conditioned responses. An example of stimuli used in classical conditioning can be found in the experiment with the baby boy, Albert, and the white objects. (Kowalski & Watson, 2011) The baby was placed in front of a white toy rat, dog, rabbit, and Santa mask. The baby more or less favored the toy rat. The uncontrolled stimulus which was used was a loud banging noise. This resulted in an uncontrolled response by baby Albert. This UCR was demonstrated as fear in that baby Albert jumped and fell and vocalized his fear by whining. Later, when researchers chose the white rat toy as the controlled stimulus, Albert soon became afraid of the toy as the same loud banging sound was made every time he reached for that particular toy. Soon, the conditioned response was fear for that particular toy as well as the other white objects.
Addictions are developed through operant conditioning. Operant conditioning functions on the premise a specific behavior will produce, or cause to cease, positive or negative outcomes. Drug and alcohol addictions can cause both positive and negative effects to the addict. (Antczak, 2011) While the alcoholic may not like the burning sensation that the glass of bourbon in front of him is about to cause, he chases after the warm, numbing buzz he feels once he empties the glass. That warm numbness is the reinforcer which is promised to be even richer in the next glass of bourbon he pours. Because of the wiring of the alcoholic’s brain, he foregoes the warning of any negative reprocutions of continuing to drink the alcohol. The desire for the positive reinforcement drives him to continue drinking. Eventually, the positive reinforcer becomes harder to achieve resulting in the need to drink more of what causes him the painful burning sensation to begin with.
The same holds true for the drug user. A young girl who goes out to the clubs to have a good time may find drinking alcohol enhances that good time but tends to wind her down too soon. She finds snorting a few lines of cocaine may cause nasal irritation and nose bleeds as well as hurt her budget, but it makes her good time even better. The high from the cocaine becomes the reinforcer to continue the drug use while foregoing the need to afford a roof over her head.
While classical conditioning can bring about phobias and operant conditioning can cause addictions, these two types of conditioning can also bring about the extinction of behaviors. Extinction is the diminishment or removal of a specific behavior. It could be said, of the alcoholic or drug addict in the above examples, that behaving in a safe and practical manner has become extinct. However, classical and operant conditioning can be used for the extinction of negative behaviors as well.…