Psychology Phobias Coursework Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 15 September 2017

Psychology Phobias Coursework

The area studied for this study is phobias, by adapting the work of Bennett Levy and Marteau. The alternative hypothesis was whether the participant disliked a particular thing about the animal; in particular it being likely to bite, being ugly, or having a strange texture, they will also give a high fear rating. A survey was completed by 30 participants aged over sixteen years old, using an opportunity sample, to find their opinions about how likely the variables are likely to occur.

The principle finding was all the variable results gave a positive significant correlation. The main implications of the findings were it supported the research by Bennett Levy and Marteau that there is a strong correlation between an appearance of an animal and fear. Introduction: The definition of a phobia is a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the conscious awareness that it is not dangerous.

Explanations to how a phobia develops differ between schools of psychology. The behaviourist theory argues that phobias are learnt by classical conditioning and reinforced by operant conditioning. An experiment on phobias supporting the behaviourist theory was executed by Watson and Rayner in 1920. The aim of the experiment was to show how classical conditioning could be applied to condition fear of a white rat into “Little Albert”, an 11 month old boy.

The psychodynamic theory sees phobias resulting from the displacement of repressed impulses to an object or situation which becomes a focus for a phobia. Sigmund Freud speaks of an Oedipus complex which is where children of both sexes regard their father as an adversary and competitor for the exclusive love of their mother. This is related to phobias in the study of Little Hans. Little Hans phobia of horses is due to the fact that he took pleasure in his father getting hurt by a horse, as it meant Little Hans could have his mother all to himself.

The cognitive theory states that people with phobias tend to focus on negative aspects of situations. The way people typically think, such as catastrophising, affects the likelihood of a fearful response. Tomarken et al (1989) supported this theory by finding the participants with phobias greatly overestimated the number of times fear related slides were followed by a shock.

The biological theory states phobias tend to run in families which suggest a genetic component. Phobias related to survival, such as snakes, spiders, and heights, are much more common and much easier to induce in the laboratory than other kinds of fears. Seligman proposed the Preparedness theory that states humans are genetically disposed to respond rapidly to hazards in order to survive dangerous environments, therefore a result of evolutionary history. Consequently, the innate predisposition to fear these objects became an adaptive human trait. Ohman et al also said that many common phobias, such as heights and snakes, are based on things which may have threatened human survival in the past.

While researching the biological theory, a decision was made to focus on this theory due to it having many areas that one could explore. These included the study Bennett-Levy Marteau and Sharma. Bennett-Levy and Marteau (1984) showed there is a strong correlation between fear of small harmless animals and an animals’ appearance. Specifically it is seen that the amount of fear expressed is related to the extent of the difference from the human form. They did this by conducting surveys, and correlating two variables.

A number of surveys correlating fears and phobias have also been done by Agras, Sylvester & Oliveau, 1969; Costello, 1982; Kirkpatrick, 1984. Sharma wrote a paper suggesting disgust and fear are closely related. Sharma observed many patients postpone or avoid a simple blood test, and was unsure whether this was due to the test being painful or whether it just felt “icky”. Sharma wrote that fear and disgust are both one of the five basic universal emotions, found in all cultures and societies as it is essential for survival, fear tells us to run and disgust tells us to avoid contact.

However, Sharma says that some people with the phobias of spiders or insects have greater disgust sensitivity. Disgust sensitivity is a term used to describe a person who finds things disgusting easier and quicker than the majority of other people. From the research by Bennett-Levy and Marteau, a questionnaire was made in order to be able to see the correlation between fear/deadliness and how disgusting the animal is.

Free Psychology Phobias Coursework Essay Sample


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 15 September 2017

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