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Fear: Why Are We So Afraid?

770 words - 3 pages

"Being frightened is an experience you can't buy." We are a society that adores fear. We thrive off of it; creating horror movies, shows like "Fear Factor", and the media in general are only a few examples. At the same time there are people who are afraid to leave their house and are possibly restricted to a single room. So what is fear? What is the purpose of being afraid? Why is it that some people will run and scream when they see a snake while others collect and breed them for their love of these majestic reptiles?

Fear is a feeling we have all dealt with at one time or another. It is something that we first experience as children, and are conditioned to respond to in many different ways. In a controversial experiment in 1920 John B. Watson shows us with "Little Albert" how a young child can be conditioned to fear a white rat, which he had originally not been afraid of. With the baby sitting on the ground the rat was presented to him; there was no obvious fear but there was extensive curiosity. A loud gong was sounded and frightened Albert. This was repeated every time the rat was presented until Albert connected the white rat with the scary noise. Finally when the rat came out the baby would start to cry and try to get away. Now Watson was able to deduce through his experiment that phobias were generally expected to be conditioned responses. He declared that phobias were either a fear of the initial stimulus or that they had been shifted to another stimuli, as the person grew older. Adult personalities, Watson believed, are shaped through early childhood events. Watson also had behavioral evidence that proved that learned responses in childhood shifted across stimuli and environments, carrying over a period of time.

The dictionary definition, according to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary of fear states that fear is, "1 a: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger." This is a rather unspecific definition. Fear can also refer to general anxiety, as in Arachnophobia "fear of spiders" or Claustrophobia "fear of closed in areas." These fears occur not automatically from a present or looming danger, but...

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