Date of Award

1989

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Nelson Smith

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation was twofold. One purpose was to examine the efficiency of escape training as a procedure for conditioning fear. The second and main focus was to investigate the efficacy of repeated response prevention treatments and the retention of these treatment effects. Response prevention (RP) has been shown to significantly decrease avoidance behavior in the laboratory setting. However, past research has also shown the return of avoidance behavior over repeated testings. It was hypothesized that increasing the number of RP treatments, and distributing them, would increase the retention of avoidance reduction over repeated testings. It was predicted that the retention of avoidance reduction would be greatest in a 24-treatment group and least in a one-treatment group. It was also predicted that response prevention treated subjects would exhibit less avoidance behavior than nonresponse prevention subjects (NRP). The escape training procedure of only two trials was shown to be sufficient to condition long lasting fear/avoidance behavior; the avoidance learning persisted over a 30 day period. This animal model for research in investigating the retention of treatment effects is responsive to an increased consciousness for protecting animal's well-being and is arguably a closer analog to the human condition than previously used training models. Response prevention groups showed less avoidance behavior than nontreated groups. Although there was an increase in avoidance behavior in RP groups over repeated tests, they did not reach the level of avoidance responding of the nontreated groups. There was no difference between massed and distributed treatment groups, supporting the conclusion that when sufficiently long total RP treatment is used, both distributed and massed administration are equally effective.

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