Classical conditioning is a learning behaviour where an organism learns to associate a conditioned stimuli (CS) with the appearance of an unconditioned stimuli (US) creating a conditioned response (CR) (Pavlov, 1927). For example, when a person sees somebody peeling a lemon (CS) they will start salivating (CR) as they prepare for the sour taste. Classical conditioning has further been associated with the development of fear and anxiety. It has been shown that fear can be learned through the process of associating danger with a specific object or situation after several trials or in more extreme cases after only one trial (Öhman, Fredrikson, Hugdahl, & Rimmo, 1976). Thus, one of the applications of classical conditioning is acquiring and overcoming fear. Extreme fear of an animal, object or situation is called a phobia (APA: DSM-V, 2013). It has been found that classical conditioning can be effectively used in phobia treatment as the fear is un-learned through therapy (Öst, 1986). This has been further developed in the past decades with the development of technology to make the treatment safer and more accessible to a larger number of patients (Morina, Ijntema, Meyerbröker, & Emmelkamp, 2015).
Fear development can be explained through classical learning as a neutral stimulus (e.g. tone, light) is connected to an adverse stimulation (e.g. electric shock, loud noise) eliciting biological responses that have been evolutionarily successful for that species in a threatening situation (Öhman et al., 1976). The unconditioned stimulus is the naturally occurring stimulus that elicits an innate response (unconditioned response...
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...ear learning has been supported by a number of studies showing the process of associating a traumatizing situation with a neutral object, animal or environment (Öst, 1989). Although, the first model has quite a few criticisms, modern psychologists have been able to explain them quite well. Classical conditioning has been applied to phobia treatments as an exposure therapy (Foa et al., 1986). This has been shown to be very successful in various conditions and is being continuously improved and developed. Psychologists are trying to find easier ways to conduct exposure sessions while maintaining equal results with the traditional therapy, for example, having multiple people in the session or conducting it virtually (Miloff, Lindner, Hamilton, Reuterskiöld, Andersson, & Carlbring, 2016). Both of these developments have a lot of potential to improve the therapy greatly.
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