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A Laboratory Study of Fear: the Case of Peter Mary Cover Jones (1924)

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A Laboratory Study of Fear: The Case of PETER
Mary Cover Jones (1924)
October 20, 2014
Francoise Moisan
PSY 201A 41163

This is an empirical studies on desensitization as a cure for phobia. It was written by Mary Cover Jones in 1924. It is considered by some to be a defining landmark in behavioral therapy and was a breakthrough in how behaviorism could be studied and manipulated in the laboratory.
In order for something to be considered an experiment it must contain some basic elements: * It must ask a question: Can fears be removed under laboratory conditions. * Collect background research: This a sequel to a case contributed by Dr. Watson and furnished supplementary material of interest in a genetic study of emotions. Dr. Watson’s case illustrated how a fear could be produced experimentally under laboratory conditions. . Peter was ~3 years old at the time of the experiment and he exhibited a fear of white rats and this fear extended to a rabbit, fur coat, feather, cotton wool, etc. but not to wooden blocks and similar toys. * Construct a Hypothesis: How a fear may be removed under laboratory conditions. * Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment * Progress in combating the fear reactions was so marked that many of the details of the process could be observed easily. * It was possible to continue the study over a period of more than three months. * The notes of a running diary show the characteristics of a healthy normal, interesting child, well adjusted, except for an exaggerated fear reactions. * The techniques were derived from basic classical conditioning techniques that were made famous by physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s conditioning experiments. * The data was charted to show the progress and regression of the experiment. * Fear of a white rabbit by "direct conditioning", in which a pleasant stimulus (food) was associated with the rabbit * Draw a Conclusion: Peter developed a fondness for the rabbit over time, through controlled exposer to the rabbit, combined with pleasing stimuli. A patient may be desensitized through the repeated introduce to a series of stimuli that approximated the phobia. * Communicate Your Results: Conditioning can help to remove a fear in a laboratory of a white rabbit and this conditioning also help to eliminate the fear of cotton and fur coats. And his reactions to a white rat and a rug with a stuffed head were greatly reduced and now he tolerated strange and unfamiliar animals. What this study does not tell us what the original dear situation was and if this conditional training would eliminate the original fear.

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