PSYB45: Chapter Twenty-Four – Fear and Anxiety Reduction Procedures
Fear: composed of both operant and respondent behaviour. Typically, a person is afraid of a
particular stimulus or stimulus situation. When the stimulus is present, the person
experiences unpleasant bodily responses and engages in escape or avoidance behaviour. The
bodily responses are respondent behaviours we call anxiety. The autonomic nervous
system arousal involved in anxiety is an establishing operation that makes it more likely
that the person will engage in escape or avoidance behaviour at that time
A child who gets knocked down or bitten by a dog may develop a fear of dogs. The painful
stimulus of being bitten is a US that elicits autonomic arousal, an UR. The dog itself is a
neutral stimulus that becomes a CS because the dog’s presence is paired with the painful
stimulus. Therefore, when the child sees a dog (CS), it elicits a CR similar to the UR that
was elicited by the painful stimulus of the dog bite.
Relaxation Training: strategies that people use to decrease the autonomic arousal that
they experience as a component of fear and anxiety problems. The person engages in
specific relaxation behaviours that result in bodily responses opposite to the autonomic
arousal. Four common relaxation training approaches are progressive muscle relaxation,
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: the person systematically tenses and relaxes each of the
major muscle groups in the body. Tensing and relaxing the muscles leaves them more
relaxed in their initial state.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: (deep breathing; relaxed breathing) person breathes deeply in
a slow, rhythmic fashion. At each inhalation, the person uses the muscles of the diaphragm
to pull oxygen deep into the lungs.
Attention Focusing Exercises: produce relaxation by directing attention to a neutral or
pleasant stimulus to remove the person’s attention from the anxiety producing stimulus.
Procedures such as meditation, guided imagery, and hypnosis all produce relaxation
through a mechanism of attention focusing.
Behavioural Relaxation Training: the person is taught to relax each muscle group in
the body by assuming relaxed postures. This is similar to PMR, except that the person does
not tense and relax each muscle group
Systematic Desensitization: the person with a phobia practices relaxation while
imagining scenes of the fear-producing stimulus. A phobia is a fear in which the level of
anxiety or escape and avoidance behaviour is severe enough to disrupt the person’s life.
Wolpe determined that a person could decrease fear responses by learning to relax while