Experimental Models

As B. F. Skinner's laboratory discoveries of the principles of instrumental conditioning began to be applied to humans in the 1940's and 1950's, experimental models of phobias in animals were developed. In the 1950's, Joseph Wolpe created phobia-like responses in cats by shocking them in ex perimental cages. He was later able to decrease their fear by feeding them in the cages where they had previously been shocked. Based on this counter-conditioning model, Wolpe developed the therapy procedure of systematic desensitization, which paired mental images of the feared stimulus with bodily relaxation.

Social learning theory as advanced by Albert Bandura in the 1960's was also applied to phobias. Bandura conducted experiments showing that someone might develop a phobia by observing another person behaving fearfully. It was later demonstrated that some phobias could be treated by having the patient observe and imitate a nonfearful model. Cognitive approaches to phobias were also developed in the 1970's and 1980's by therapists such as Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck. These theories focus on the role of disturbing thoughts in creating bodily arousal and associated fear. Therapy then consists of altering these thought patterns.

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