Behavior Modification Plan Essay

962 words - 4 pages

My client is a politician running for local office with one major disadvantage. He has an acute fear of public speaking. If speaking to more than a couple people at one time he will freeze up and his fight or flight response will kick in. This behavior is consistent each time he attempts to speak in front of a large group of people. The fear became apparent in high school during a student government debate. The fear was initially only connected to an entire auditorium, but slowly progressed to mid-sized groups by the time finished college. This fear could ruin his career and continue to be a setback throughout his life. He is desperate for theories regarding the source of the fear and possible solutions.
Classical conditioning can explain the development and persistence of my client’s fear of public speaking. Classical conditioning can be defined as, “the type of learning in which a response naturally elicited by one stimulus comes to be elicited by a different, formerly neutral, stimulus,” (Morris 153). Classic conditioning begins with an unconditioned stimulus, in other words, an event that triggers an unconditioned response as a reaction to the unconditioned stimulus. A neutral response that is paired with the unconditioned response can become a conditioned stimulus or “trigger” for a new conditioned response. In the case of my client, his fear could have begun with a neutral stimulus such as him being the center of attention. An unconditioned stimulus could then take place as he embarrasses himself immensely in front of the audience before him. He reacts with an unconditioned response of fear, stress, and shock. Following this event, the neutral stimulus of being the center of attention could take the role of a conditioned stimulus. This is connected with the unconditioned response of fear and now becomes the conditioned response. So when my client is the center of attention, the learned association with fear is triggered. When he is overcome by fear, my client is embarrassed yet again. This reinforces the association and the behavior is preserved further.
Operant conditioning is yet another possible explanation for the development and persistence of my client’s fear of public speaking. According to Understanding Psychology by Morris and Maisto, “[operant conditioning is] the type of learning in which behaviors are emitted (in the presence of specific stimuli) to earn rewards or avoid punishments.” Operant conditioning uses reinforces and punishers to influence the frequency of a certain behavior. There are positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement includes stimuli that are added and increase the frequency of a behavior. Negative reinforcement includes stimuli that are removed and increase the frequency of a behavior. Punishments are quite the opposite and are used to decrease the frequency of a behavior that is not desired. In regards to public speaking, my client could have been exposed to a number of...

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