Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Nelson F. Smith


A review of the literature in avoidance behavior in general and response prevention (RP) in particular revealed that three different assessment procedures have been used to measure fear. Although the relative advantages and disadvantages of each procedure have been addressed at the conceptual level, they have received little empirical comparison. The present study systematically examined the following assessment procedures: l) the avoidance extinction technique, 2) the approach procedure, and 3) the conditioned emotional response (CER) procedure. Two different dependent variables were recorded within each assessment procedure. The first purpose of the study was to compare the relative sensitivity of each dependent variable in discriminating the effects of RP. The second purpose was to examine the relationships between these different assessment variables.

Sixty male albino rats were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment groups. After avoidance training, one of these treatment groups received RP and the other group did not. Subjects from each treatment group were then presented all three assessment procedures in one of six possible orders of presentation.

Results indicate that both of the approach assessment variables and both of the avoidance assessment variables showed significant RP effects whereas both CER measures failed to do so. Results of a discriminant function analysis revealed that approach latency, one of the approach assessment variables, was the most sensitive outcome measure. Surprisingly, the results of a principal component analysis applied to the fear assessment variables found three distinct components. Implications of these results to avoidance theory and research in general as well as to the clinical assessment of avoidance behavior were discussed.



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