The effects of differential language conditioning on fear responses

Date
1989
Authors
Campos, Peter E.
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Abstract
Fear has long been associated with advances in behavioral theory and in the innovation behavioral change techniques. Inadequacies with traditional learning theory conceptualizations of fear and the introduction of eclectic cognitive explanations as alternatives have led to a schismatic state of affairs even in this well defined, thoroughly researched area. This paper outlines an approach to bridge the learning-cognitive gap Which characterizes the field today through the extension of Paradigmatic Behavioral theory's approach to language conditioning. Sixty-five subjects who self-reported to have a fear of spiders participated in this study. Subjects were divided into four treatment groups or two control groups. In each of the treatment groups subjects viewed slides of a tarantula as they listened to and repeated statements describing response-referent (RR) and stimulus-referent (SR) characteristics which were phrased positively or negatively. Subjects in an affective control condition saw the same slides, but heard no statements and subjects in the behavioral control condition only underwent a Behavior Approach Test, as did all subjects. Ratings of subjective discomfort and fear (affective measures) were obtained before, midway through, and immediately after the language conditioning trials, and after the BAT. Results indicate that (1) subjective ratings of fear and discomfort were significantly increased over treatment through negative language conditioning (negative RR and negative SR statements) but remained close to baseline levels after positive language conditioning (positive RR and positive SR): (2) approach behavior was significantly increased with positive language conditioning and inhibited by negative language conditioning; (3) affective ratings were most affected by RR descriptions and unaffected by SR descriptions: and (4) both RR and SR statements affected approach behavior, but the magnitude of change was greater for subjects who heard SR statements. These results are discussed in terms of the potential efficacy of language conditioning in treating fear, the need for standardization of language conditioning procedures, the implications for behavior therapy in general, and the implications for paradigmatic Behavioral theory and therapy.
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Typescript.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1989.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 156-169)
Microfiche.
viii, 169 leaves, bound ill. 29 cm
Keywords
Phobias, Verbal conditioning
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Psychology; no. 2419
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