The Role of Behavioral and Cognitive Theory in Phobia Development and Extinction

Elaboration, 2018

11 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents


Case Study Overview
Describing Sally’s Phobia Using Inference and Research of the Development of Simple Phobias

Explaining Phobia through Behavioral and Cognitive Theory
Classical conditioning
Operant conditioning
Observational learning

The Process of Extinction in Overcoming Phobia

Tenets of Cognitive Theory in Overcoming Phobia




Phobia is increasingly becoming a central point of attraction in the field of emotion research. Research psychologists are interested in generating more evidence to reconcile the wide differences that exist from the current findings. From a critical perspective, consensus on the basis of fear or phobia appears to be unlikely in the foreseeable future. This is attributable to the fact that psychologists perceive phobia as a psychological construct, whereas biologists argue fear to be an aspect that is discoverable through scientific inquiry. Another aspect that has contributed to the controversy surrounding research on phobia is the lack of consensus on how to investigate this emotion. Despite these controversies, clinical scientists are still engaged in intensive research on fear as an underlying aspect in mood and anxiety disorders. From a real-life perspective, phobias are not new in animals, including humans. As such, Adolphs (2013) perceives fear to be a central state of organisms. This case study report provides a comprehensive discussion based on the psychological construction of emotions through the application of behavioral and cognitive theory in analyzing the given case study.

Case Study Overview

The case study involves Sally, a 23-year-old woman who is reported to have developed dog phobia during her childhood. She is said to have had negative experience with dogs, as an aspect that is apparently the cause of her dog phobia. Surprisingly, her phobia seems to be causing anxiety in her, interfering with the way she interacts with other people during day-to-day social interactions. Her dog phobia has filled her life with anxiety; she is always anxious whenever she meets new people or invited to unfamiliar areas.

Overall, Sally’s fear for dogs provides an opportunity to explore a number of aspects that are associated with phobias. Foremost, it offers an opportunity to discuss the potential ways for the development of simple phobias. It also offers an opportunity to discuss how extinction and cognitive learning are useful psychological tools for helping people to recover from their phobias.

Describing Sally’s Phobia Using Inference and Research of the Development of Simple Phobias

Sally’s phobia can be described from the perspective of how simple phobias, including dog phobia develops. In this context, this behavior can be explained through an analytical review of the underlying relationship between emotion and cognition. This way, it is possible to trace the process involved in the development of simple phobias. Specifically, information processing theories explain the cognitive process and its cognitive products. In retrospect, it is apparent that behavioral theory of anxiety has generated an immense impact on information processing approaches to emotion due to its reliance on the conditioning model. This perspective explains how anxiety is acquired and maintained within an individual. For the case of Sally, she acquired dog phobia as a result of negative experience she encountered while in her childhood. Since then, she has not been able to shed off fear of dogs. Instead, this form of anxiety has remained to her early adulthood, and this can be explained by theories of acquisition and maintenance of this disorder. In other words, Sally’s dog phobia falls under the two-process theory that holds the assumption that conditioning underpins the fixing of behaviors; thus, active counter-conditioning interventions are required to change these behaviors. However, a different dimension exists in cognitive psychology that seeks to address clinical problems. This approach holds that emotional responses can be changed through the alteration of events or meaning associated to the underlying events. This approach focuses on investigating specific beliefs that are responsible for dysfunctional patterns of cognitive processes and replaces them with beneficial beliefs (Crocker et al., 2013). Based on this, inferences can be made on how simple phobias develop. Evidence shows that fear structures influence attentional strategies and this leads to behavioral and cognitive avoidance (Foa & Kozak, 1986). It is reported that fear structure involves an encounter of a stimuli from the environment which leads to the formation of networks in memory. Consequently, the interaction between emotion and memory generates mechanisms to escape the danger associated with the stimuli through the activation of the escape sequence. This way, an individual develops propositional meaning to the stimuli. As a result, he is able to discriminate non-threat situations from threat situations (Krypotos, Effting, Kindt & Beckers, 2015). In the case for Sally, the negative experience she acquired in second grade was the stimuli that triggered fear responses as it is evidenced by her behavior of avoiding dogs. This implies that phobic anxiety has profound effects on memory.

Explaining Phobia through Behavioral and Cognitive Theory

In retrospect, phobia can be explained extensively by three main approaches; classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning. These are the main ways through which abnormal behavior can be formed. From a behavioral approach, operant conditioning, classical conditioning and social learning theory have been used to explain the occurrence of several psychological disorders, including phobias (Henton & Iversen, 2012).

Classical conditioning

From the perspective of classical conditioning, it is argued that associative learning and classical conditioning underlie the development of phobias. In this context, it is possible to deduce individual’s association with stimuli that trigger anxiety through classical conditioning. This approach is based on the tenets of behaviorism which hold that environment plays an integral role in shaping behavior. They also posit that learning occurs as a result of interactions with the environment. Overall, classical conditioning entails the formation of an association between two stimuli. This association is believed to result to a learned response.


Excerpt out of 11 pages


The Role of Behavioral and Cognitive Theory in Phobia Development and Extinction
Egerton University
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
484 KB
role, behavioral, cognitive, theory, phobia, development, extinction
Quote paper
Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2018, The Role of Behavioral and Cognitive Theory in Phobia Development and Extinction, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The Role of Behavioral and Cognitive Theory in Phobia Development and Extinction

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free