Preparedness theory

How has preparedness theory attempted to integrate a Pavlovian model of the acquisition of specific phobias with this biological specificity? What is the status of Preparedness theory today?
When confronted with a phobic object or situation an individual appears to have little control and no alternative but to avoid the feared object or situation (Ohman & Soares, 1993). Consequently, individuals with a phobia can be vulnerable to anxiety induced automatic reactions to an object or situation which in turn can place major restrictions on everyday life (Ohman & Soares, 1993). Phobias are characterised as a conditioned reaction that is specific, persistent, intense and irrational with a compelling need to avoid the phobic object or situation (Reber, 1995). The majority of phobias concentrate on a small number of fear inducing stimuli such as snakes, spiders, heights, thunder and confined spaces. These biological stimuli are more likely to develop into a phobia than non-biological stimuli such as firearms, broken glass and motor cars, even though humans are more likely to have an aversive experience with non-biological stimuli. Preparedness theory was introduced by Seligman (1971) whereby the concept of preparedness attempts to explain why fears and phobias are so much more likely to occur with biological stimuli than non-biological stimuli (Davey, 1995). I will discuss classical conditioning and preparedness theory and how preparedness theory has attempted to integrate a Pavlovian model of the acquisition of specific phobias with this biological specificity. Further, a contemporary status of preparedness theory is discussed by means of an evaluation of available evidence.
Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov established the study of classical conditioning (Bourne & Russo, 1998). Kalat (1998) states that classical conditioning involves a modification of involuntary behaviour. In this process, a neutral stimulus that causes no natural respon…

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