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Fear has long been associated with the process of classical conditioning. Phobias, not only can be created through this conditioning procedure, but can also be treated through the same principles. In addition to the clinical abnormality of phobias, fear can also be associated with the condition known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Many principles of conditioning may be applied to both conditions, not only in understanding their etiology, but also with the creation of treatment programs.


Recently, there have been many events of historical importance that have occurred within the United States that most likely will generate phobias and PTS disorders. These events include the World Trade Center attacks, the current biological attack consisting of the exposure to Anthrax, possible future attacks on American soil, etc. The unfortunate uniqueness of these events creates a necessity in studying the relationship among them and the possible conditions of fear and PTS.

The purpose of this paper is to explore how these occurrences may generate abnormal conditions through learning principles while also exploring possible treatment plans on an individual and group scale. The necessity of action by the federal government in alleviating fears and possible PTS with the use of general conditioning procedures will also be discussed.

Many emotions are considered to be innate in the human . Such emotions include disgust, distress, and the startle reflex. At about the age of six months, the infant displays physical reactions that appear to be the emotion referred to as fear. Typically, for the individual at this age, this emotion is evoked when involved with strangers. While this suggests that fear is an emotion that has a cognitive component, the actual emotion of fear might include a number of features, including the innate reactions of distress and the startle reflex. In other words, fear is a physical reaction that is associated with certain conditions or situations. The association between the physical reaction or response of fear is learned through the mechanism of classical conditioning. Because of the many cognitive components this relationship may contain, the development of fearful responses can be complicated and difficult especially with regard to its treatment or extinction. Thus, various types of abnormal behavior may be generated through classical conditioning that require a variety of interventions to extinguish that particular response. This is especially true when the element that has generated the fear is widespread and impacts a large number of people.

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