Theories Affecting Anna's Fear Of Snakes

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The DSM 5 defines a phobia as a persistent and unreasonable fear of an object (or situation) that is generally avoided to refrain oneself from intense anxiety. By contrast, a fear is absolutely rational and reasonable as the feared stimuli is usually threatening to the individual. There are various types of phobias, these include social phobias, agoraphobia and specific phobias. If it is assumed that Anna has a phobia of snakes, this would be a specific phobia as such disorders are defined as a person who, when exposed to the feared stimuli (in this case, snakes), experiences extreme anxiety. There are several theories that may be considered to help explain how Anna acquired this specific animal phobia. The theory of classical conditioning,…show more content…
Evolutionary psychology may offer an explanation in regards of the preparedness theory (Buchanan & Coulson, 2012) which states that we are predisposed to fear dangerous animals, such as snakes, because by avoiding them it ensures our survival and reproduction. Therefore, this theory favours the nature side of the debate slightly more as it suggests we have an innate fear. However, the human mind is far too complex to explain Anna’s fear of snakes as either being entirely nature or entirely nurture. Thus, a holistic approach must be taken to explain the aetiology of Anna’s fear of snakes and why Bjorn, who is the same age, is not afraid of snakes.

Behaviourism proposes that we are born a tabula rasa and that all subsequent behaviour is a result of learning from the environment. Classical conditioning was founded by Ivan Pavlov in the 1890s who discovered that by pairing meat powder (the unconditioned stimulus) with a neutral stimulus repeatedly, he could condition the dogs to salivate every time the bell rang. It is possible that Anna learned to fear snakes through a
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Many researchers have investigated gender differences and the prevalence of fears and phobias, with several studies reaching the same conclusions, resulting in concurrent validity. One sample of 336 males and 384 females responded to a questionnaire consisting of statements which they determined true or false to ascertain whether they had a phobia or not (Fredrikson et al, 1996). Findings reveal that males only had an animal phobia prevalence of 3.3%, while females had a prevalence of 12.1%, therefore suggesting that there are in fact gender differences in phobias, with females being more vulnerable. However, as this study used the self-report method it is possible that demand characteristics skewed the results as males are more likely to deny their phobias. This may be because fear is not considered a masculine trait by society but females are generally portrayed as the weaker gender and so may be more willing to admit to their phobia. This therefore limits the validity of this theory in relation to Anna and Bjorn. Nevertheless, this study also investigated the age differences in the prevalence of phobias and found that animal fears were more common in younger children than adults, although since Anna and Bjorn are both the same age, this does not explain why Bjorn does not fear snakes. Similar findings
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