Essay Example and Vicarious Learning and Development of Fears and Disgust in Adults

Published: 2022-04-19
Essay Example and Vicarious Learning and Development of Fears and Disgust in Adults
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Learning
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1714 words
15 min read

Learning in both children and adults occur in diverse ways and is influenced by both nature and nurture. A child is born innocent, but as they grow, they pick different ideas from the environs and cultures one is born. The same process of learning continues throughout life. Knowledge can be acquired through class learning where instructions and hand on are often conveyed, by observing and through hearing. Behavior learning is a field that has been explored by many scholars amongst whom include Bandura who come up with the theory of vicarious learning. According to Bandura (1962), vicarious learning occurs through observation mostly in instructional situations. In this case, this research aim at exploring vicarious learning and how it happens in adulthoods as compared to children and its association with the development of fear. Different scholars finding and literature, in this case, will be examined as a result.

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Observational learning is critical in the development of psychology studies. Scholarly works, for example, that of Bandura and others set to explore the effects of observation leaning in relation to social cognitive ways of learning, which challenges the fact that all behaviors can be accounted for, through the operant conditioning process and respondent alone(Bandura, 1986). The social cognitive perspective, however, places more emphasis on cognition and modeling, in understanding their role in explaining and understanding behavior inherently. Behavior analysts, on the other hand, insist on challenging the fact that observational behaviors learning can be defined through conditioned reinforcement, instructional practice and generalized imitation (Pierce & Cheney, 2008). All this assumption continue to be challenged when the theory of psychological interest is observation learning is presented. It is necessary, therefore, to understand how observational learning is influenced by both verbal and non-verbal factors to stimulate specific reaction such as fear and disgust.

According to Bandura, Ross D, & Ross A. (1963), the vicious learning model has caused researchers to indulge more in research after understandings that people can describe observed behavior later. The description of action then is not necessarily from previous personal experience one engaged, but rather what was observed too from other people's reactions. For example, a student can learn by watching how a classmate interacts with a teacher in a class setting. Verbal learning also is found to be quite influential in vicious learning, and the impact influenced more the extent to which a person's behavior took a different direction through observation. Observational learning, therefore, is described to make course though input-output cognitive process.

According to Bandura & Jeffrey, (1973) motivational, retention, motor production and attentional processes influence learning acquired through observation. The acquisition of the framework pattern is, therefore, in this case, affected by retention and attention models, and performance of the learned information through observation and is regulated through the incentive approaches and motor production. According to Bandura & Jeffrey (1973), the attentional strategies are defined as cognitive abilities that influence sensory models activities and retention are translator influencers which convert to form an internal guide for memory presentation while the motivational approaches determine how behavior become an overt action. The framework also explains how responses are imitated immediately after observed and also how behavior is projected and produced later in different instances. When model activities are changed into images and verbal symbols then the memories are used for subsequent reproductions (Bandura & Jeffrey, 1973). Based on this finding, Bandura created great significance in vicious learning in human development as it accounts for one's personality, social and overt behaviors in child and adults. Importantly this scholars also explain how people can learn from other people's action without necessarily having to experience similar consequences

According to Ranchman (1977), Fear is defined as an emotional reaction to specific threat or threatening stimuli. Phobias are parts of early development, and developmental fears include fears for noise, strangers, height, and darkness among others. These fears are transitory and are often resolved during childhood. In other instances, incidences of terror remain prevalent throughout a person's life from childhood to adulthood. When fear is extreme, then it can be categorized under anxiety spectrum disorder.

To understand the theory of fear, it's necessary first to consider its determinants and process of fear acquisition as different approaches seem to have different reasoning towards fear and fear acquisition. According to Ranchman (1977), fear acquisition follows three different pathways that include, vicious acquisition, direct pathway acquisition which is the conditioning and action through transmission of instruction which is a direct pathway. According to OEst and Hugdahl (1981), 58% of persons who are socially phobic traced their fear origins from aversive conditioning and are the majority. 13% fear derivation is based on vicarious experiences, while 3% acquired fear from instructional learning. 26% of the group could not account for reasons behind their phobic reactions.

Townsley et al. (1995) also using interview and social anxiety history records deduced whether different persons had experienced similar and identifiable social traumatic events. Based on research finding, people with social phobia and those ordinary or control individual had varying results significantly when it comes to reporting on traumatic exposures. The group that registered to having social phobia both generalized and specific social phobias add up to 44% of which the 44% had registered to have experienced traumatic conditioning incidences before compared to 20 % of the control individuals. The control group of individual's inclusion to the experiment help generate evidence and clues on whether adverse learning experiences may result to fear to complain (Merckelbach et al., 1992).

According to Watson and Rayner's (1920), fear is learned and developed from prior direct situations with stimuli that have traumatic effects. According to the scholar assumption, fear was directly likely to be triggered, if conditioned stimuli such as objects and animals were experienced and placed near things that cause anxiety. The two scholar's theory was later challenged as studies showed that people with intense fear do not necessary have memories of casual traumatic experiences that relate to their feared object or animal (Rachman, 1977). Therefore, based on research and continued understanding more than conditioned stimuli and unconditioned stimulus influence the outcome of the reaction.

Different factors influence fear acquisition and these influences are categorized into environmental learning pathway which has vicarious learning, direct conditioning, and negative learning. The second pathway is the non-associative pathway which composes of biological preparedness, and genetics Rachman (1977). Based on direct conditioning model, when a person is exposed to traumatic events, one can end up remaining fearful when presented with such cues. This often occurs precisely in the paring of an unconditioned stimulus with a conditioned stimulus (Dunne, & Askew, 2017). For example, a needle which is a conditioned stimulus and physical pain which is an example of an unconditioned stimulus. A person, therefore, is likely to exhibit conditioned fear when exposed to a needle and one often expects physical pain.

According to Askew, & Field (2008), the two-factor theory of fear explains that too much concern is due to direct conditioning experiences and its support for avoidance behavior. For example, in an experiment of person 7-18yrs old 63% of them recorded extreme cases of pain after an injection. However, even though we may want to relate fear with past experiences, research among adults using the same pathway show that most adults who exhibited intense phobias cannot recall or associate the experience with a previous painful event. Also, a majority of persons who have experienced traumatic incidences do not all have anxiety disorders. Therefore, the direct conditioning alone cannot be relied on in explaining fear.

According to Goodman & McGrath, (2003), vicarious learning is another pathway that can be used in explaining children fear and this is fear learned by observing the concern exhibited by others without having to experience same. According to Askew & Field, (2007) Children often seek emotions from their parents and apply the collected feelings in the uncertain situation also known as social referencing and is a basis for observational learning of fear. Toddlers who have seen their mothers express pain facials when a needle is presented resulting to development of needle phobia, and as a result, parental anxiety is a primary cause for anxiety in children (Askew & Field, 2008).

Fear, as a result, is often learned through observation and other people experiences without having to experience traumatic events themselves. However, this assumption can only be based on adult experiences, and this is according past relayed information collected through questionnaire among adults. In children, however, the hypothesis remains invalid as no verbal scientific research obtained in similar manners as that of adults had been conducted exhaustively in that area (Gullone, & Ollendick, 1998). Use of questionnaires is however projected as an invalid measure of collecting scientific data in this area, and as a result, the assumption remain challenged since questioners can be manipulated to trigger specific responses. For example, questionnaires might trigger responded to attribute their fears to a particular direction. Also, they are bound to cause biases especially among adults (Gullone, & Ollendick, 1998). As a result, more reliable clinical experiments need to be carried out to back up the assumption.

Negative relied information can also be a cause for fear. When negative assumptions about a stimulus are passed, one is likely to feel fear toward the incentives even though one had not handed an encounter. Most of this assumptions are based on negative beliefs about dangers to be posed by specific stimuli. In most cases avoidance is used to evade the information induced phobia. According to Askew, Cakir, Poldsam, & Reynolds, (2014). The effect of disgust cause children to highly avoid animals or objects asserted as dangerous, and this denies them a chance to prove to prove facts. Therefore, the negative connotation given to injection can cause short live avoidance of a needle. According to Poulton & Menzies, (2002), non-associative accounts can result in phobia, and some of this account include biological preparedness. Some fears are innate and on may exhibit avoidance of dangerous situation that causes tension. These fears often r outgrown as on mature resulting in the development of adaptive responses


Askew, C., & Field, A. P. (2007). Vicarious learning and the development of fears in childhood. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45(11), 2616-2627.

Askew, C., & Field, A. P. (2008). The vicarious learning pathway to fear 40 years on. Clinical psychology review, 28(7), 1249-1265.

Bandura, A. (1969). Principles of behavior modification. New York: Holt, Rineheart and Winston, Inc

Bandura, A., & Jeffrey, R. W. (1973). Role of symbolic coding and rehearsal processes in obse...

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