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Fear in Behaviorist and Cognitive Perspectives Research Paper

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Updated: May 26th, 2020

When I was 5, I almost laid on a snake in my bed. I entered my room and went to sleep without switching on the lights. Afterward, I felt that something could slither on my body. When I switched on the lights, I saw a huge snake crawling out of the room. Later, my elder brother told me that he had brought a snake he wanted to keep at home. Since then, I have never slept alone in my room for fear of snakebite.

This paper tries to put this event into a psychological perspective in an attempt to understand the origin of my fear since that encounter with the snake. It also attempts to find out why the event remains memorable even after a long time has passed. Precisely, this paper tries to explain the origin of my fear using behaviorist and cognitive perspectives. Behaviorists value studying of observable behaviors among human beings (Baron & Kalsher, 2008).

They argue that it is possible to understand people by looking at their observable behaviors as opposed to mental and emotional actions. They also argue that all behaviors can be learned and diminished through conditioning. They would, therefore, attribute my fear to the stimulus-response relationship. Accordingly, people act in certain manners because of actions or things that act as stimuli to the respective outcomes. After some time, this stimulus-response relationship makes one get used to particular behaviors, and he or she is conditioned to act that way. In this context, fear arose from seeing the snake, and it remained for a long time. The snake conditioned me to be afraid of my room.

Conclusively, the snake is a stimulus, and the resultant fear is a response to that stimulus. Seeing the snake in the room aroused the response of fear in me. Whenever I enter the room, I always associate it with a possible snakebite. Fear strikes me just like it did on the day I saw the snake.

On the other hand, cognitive psychologists compare the human mind to a computer. A computer takes information, processes it, stores it, and retrieves it when people need it. According to cognitive psychologists, human beings store all information and occurrences in their brains. The brain contains long-term and short-term memories. Information is first stored in short-term memory, and it is moved to long-term memory through rehearsals. Therefore, my fear is a result of the retrieval of what happened to me on the day I found that snake in my room. This event went to my short-term memory, but continuous thoughts about it whenever I entered my room made it move to the long-term memory. Therefore, whenever I am in the room, the event is retrieved from my long-term memory, making me remember it. This remembrance is what arouses fear, and it is usually because of associating my experience with current situations.

Behaviorism majorly entails classical and operant conditioning (Baron & Kalsher, 2008, p.17). Classical conditioning entails linking a natural stimulus with a neutral one, and eventually making the previously neutral stimulus arouse a response. Operant conditioning, on the other hand, involves the use of rewards and punishments to create associative learning. Rewards are used to encourage good responses in the learning process, while punishments are used to diminish undesirable responses. This event took me through classical conditioning.

It is apparent that the snake as a stimulus aroused fear in me. Many human beings naturally fear snakes. In this case, therefore, the snake is a natural stimulus since it naturally arouses fear in people. Seeing it in my room made me develop fear for my room, which was previously harmless, and, therefore, a neutral stimulus. The presence of the snake in the room, thus, changed the room from being neutral into a stimulus that could arouse fear. Before I saw a snake in my house, I never used to be afraid of the room.

Cognitive psychologists argue that the human brain has two parts, which are short-term memory and long-term memory (Rugg & Coles, 1995, p.178). The short-term memory is for storing urgent information for a short time. The long term memory, on the other hand, is for storing information for a long time for future reference. The two, however, work together in such a way that information moves from the short term memory to the long term memory.

This transfer of information occurs because of elaborative rehearsal. It entails relating new information to old information, maintenance of rehearsal, and repetition of information with the intention of remembering. The memory of that event is still very accurate, ten years after it occurred. It has been possible to remember everything about it because it was the scariest occurrence I have ever encountered. In addition, I have been telling friends about it every time, and this has made it impossible to forget the event. Telling friends and remaining in that same room has served as a way of rehearsing the event. They have greatly contributed toward the event remaining fresh in my mind for a very long time.

References

Baron, R. A & Kalsher, M.J. (2008). PSY 105: Introduction to Psychology. Boston, M.A: Allynand Bacon (Pearson). Web.

Rugg, M. D., & Coles, M. G. (1995). Electrophysiology of mind: Event-related brain potentials and cognition. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. Web.

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