Psychological Self-Help

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41
Recent physiological research suggests that fears do not
necessarily involve the cerebral cortex; sensory nerves in animals,
involving hearing, go directly to the amygdala which triggers
adrenaline (fear reaction). This may help explain how we humans (if
we are wired the same way) can be scared without knowing why. 
Operant and cognitive theories about anxiety 
Feeling stress and anxiety may involve all three kinds of learning--
classical, operant, and observational (see chapter 4). Remember Little
Albert and classical conditioning? The loud "bang" was paired with the
rat a few times and Albert became afraid (a little) of the rat.
Obviously, this occurs; many people have been hurt in certain
situations, like auto accidents or climbing on something, and
developed a fear (many, of course, do not learn a serious fear in the
same situation). But psychologists are learning that classical
conditioning in humans is far more complex than just pairing a neutral
stimulus (S) with a situation (UCS) that automatically arouses a
reaction, like pain, fear, saliva, attraction, etc. Let's learn a little more
about that. 
Researching the development of fears is difficult because
psychologists can't experiment with people and try to produce a
phobia. It wouldn't be ethical. Instead, clients come to therapists with
full blown fears; often they are unable to tell us how their fears
developed. On the other hand, if you asked a psychologist how a fear
could be created, he/she probably would suggest pairing something
painful (shock) or scary (loud noise) with a harmless object (say a
basketball). This is a classical conditioning procedure, but it is not
likely to work. Remember: if Little Albert had been a little older,
Watson's method (classical conditioning) would not have worked. If
Watson had tried to condition fear to a white block of wood instead of
a white rat, it wouldn't have worked (see last chapter). The CS-UCS
connection (ball with shock) proposed by the psychologist is not
reasonable; it isn't believable that a basketball will shock you, so
reason can override conditioning. But, if you are told (and believed)
that the basketball is filled with a dangerous gas which might explode
if electrical shocks disturb the air within 10 feet of the ball, you would
probably respond with fear if you were shocked holding the basketball
and, later, you might fear the basketball alone. Many of our fears
seem reasonable to us, but not to others. 
A particularly fascinating study about creating fears was done 30
years ago by Campbell, Sanderson & Laverty (1964). Working in a
medical setting with medical students as subjects, they paired a simple
stimulus--a light or a tone--with a common drug (scoline, used in
surgery) that stopped muscle action for about one minute. A person's
reaction to temporary paralysis is panic, mostly sheer terror at not
being able to breathe (even though they know what will happen). Two
results were noteworthy: (1) the conditioning took only one trial, i.e.
the panic reaction occurred every time the light or tone alone came on
after that, even though there is no "rational" connection between a
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