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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).
If evolution prepares us to learn to be afraid of fire, we will make an association between fear and fire much more quickly than between fear and a non prepared stimulus such as a rock.
These things included situations which can be dangerous/threatening to humans early in their evolution, such as fire, deep water, lightning, and heights.
Suffering from a phobia can be a debilitating and distressing condition.
Phobias induce physiological responses and can impact upon daily routines, inhibiting life experiences and opportunities.
One day there is a forest fire, and one animal runs away, while the other shows no fear and stays in the danger zone. Preparedness is the tendency to learn some associations more easily, quickly and permanently than others.
According to the theory of evolution, the animal that runs away will survive. Less input is needed to fear something that was harmful to us in our evolutionary past than something that was not.While more people are likely to have unpleasant experiences with non-biological stimuli there is research to suggest that phobias have a biological specificity i.e.most phobias are based upon a fear of biological stimuli (Jacobs & Nadel, 1985).How has preparedness theory attempted to integrate a Pavlovian model of the acquisition of specific phobias with this biological specificity? 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).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.The idea of preparedness also explains why we do not easily learn fears of modern things that are potentially dangerous, such as cars or knives.In conclusion, the biological theory of phobias suggests that we have genes of fear for these objects that were passed down to us from our ancestors, causing us to be more 'prepared' to fear objects that were harmful to early humans, making us more likely to fear these objects over objects that were not harmful to them in the past.Science has attempted to understand two things in regards to phobias; which mechanisms activate a phobic response and how they can be treated.Initial scientific evidence has explained the origin of phobias in terms of Pavlovian classical conditioning, identifying them as conditioned human responses (Marks, 1989).