The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 161–173 | Cite as

Theoretical Implications of the Neurotic Paradox as a Problem in Behavior Theory: An Experimental Resolution

  • Thomas G. Stampfl
Article

Abstract

Why do human phobias last for months or years when such behavior should undergo extinction? This failure of extinction or persistence of self-defeating behavior of human disorders was labeled by Mowrer as the neurotic paradox. The paradox is cited by an ever-increasing number of critics who challenge any laboratory-based learning model of human psychopathology. Laboratory research, of course, omits essential requirements in the analysis of behavior, and the principles derived from such analyses must be combined in order to explain complex human behavaior. Validation for a behavioral model can thus be achieved if (a) basic principles inferred from observation of humans treated with a laboratory-derived extinction procedure (e.g., implosive therapy) are combined with (b) principles examined in laboratory research that are combined to generate unique predictions that correspond to known features of human phobic behavior. The latter evidence is briefly reviewed in research demonstrating sustained responding over one thousand consecutive active avoidance responses with complete avoidance of the “phobic” CS for an initial single shock trial. Differential reinforcement for responses to early sequential stimuli depends on minimal work requirement, and reinforcement by timeout from avoidance. This combination of factors effectively precludes extinction to main conditioned aversive stimuli for nonhumans, as it does for human phobias. Support for a laboratory model of human phobia is thereby attained.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allport, G. W. (1937). The functional autonomy of motives. American Journal of Psychology, 50, 141–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amsel, A., & Rashotte, M. E. (1984). Mechanisms of adaptive behavior. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barlow, D. (1982). The context of learning in behaviour therapy. In J. C. Boulougouris (Ed.), Learning theory approaches to psychiatry (pp. 75–84). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Baron, A., DeWaard, R. J., & Lipson, J. (1977). Increased reinforcement when timeout from avoidance includes access to a safe place. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 27, 479–494.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Boudewyns, P. A., & Shipley, R. H. (1983). Flooding and implosive therapy. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boulougouris, J. C. (Ed.). (1982). Learning theory approaches to psychiatry. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Boyd, T. L., & Levis, D. J. (1976). The effects of single component extinction of a three-component serial CS on resistance to extinction of the conditioned avoidance response. Learning and Motivation, 7, 517–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dinsmoor, J. A. (1983). Observing and conditioned reinforcement. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 6, 693–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dollard, J., & Miller, N. E. (1950). Personality and psychotherapy. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  10. Domjan, M. (1987). Animal learning comes of age. American Psychologist, 42, 556–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eglash, A. (1952). The dilemma of fear as a motivating force. Psychological Review, 59, 376–379.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Eysenck, H. J. (1976). The learning theory model of neurosis—A new approach. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 14, 251–267.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Eysenck, H. J. (1979). The conditioning model of neurosis. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2, 155–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Field, G. E., & Boren, J. J. (1963). An adjusting avoidance procedure with multiple auditory and visual warning stimuli. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 6, 537–543.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Freud, S. (1936). The problem of anxiety. (H. A. Bunker, Trans.). New York: Norton. (Original work published 1926.)Google Scholar
  16. Guthrie, E. R. (1938). The psychology of human conflict. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  17. Hilgard, E. R., & Marquis, D. G. (1940). Conditioning and learning. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  18. Hineline, P. N. (1977). Negative reinforcement and avoidance. In W. K. Honig & J. E. R. Staddon (Eds.), Handbook of operant behavior (pp. 364–414). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  19. Hineline, P. N. (1981). The several roles of stimuli in negative reinforcement. In P. Harzern & M. D. Zeiler (Eds.), Predictability, correlation, and contiguity (pp. 203–246). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  20. Hirt, M., & Greenfield, H. (1979). Implosive therapy treatment of heroin addicts during methadone detoxification. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 47, 982–983.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Hull, C. L. (1929). A functional interpretation of the conditioned reflex. Psychological Review, 36, 498–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kalish, H. I. (1981). From behavioral science to behavior modification. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  23. Kostanek, D. J., & Sawrey, J. M. (1965). Acquisition and extinction of shuttlebox avoidance with complex stimuli. Psychonomic Science, 3, 369–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Krasner, L. (1970). Comment. In D. J. Levis (Ed.), Learning approaches to therapeutic behavior change (pp. 205–207). Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  25. Levis, D. J. (1979). The infrahuman avoidance model of symptom maintenance and implosive therapy. In J. D. Keehn (Ed.), Psychopathology in animals: Research and clinical implications (pp. 257–277). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  26. Levis, D. J. (1980). Implementing the technique of implosive therapy. In A. Goldstein & E. B. Foa (Eds.), Handbook of behavioral interventions: A clinical guide (pp. 92–151). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Levis, D. J., & Boyd, T. L. (1979). Symptom maintenance: An infrahuman analysis and extension of the conservation of anxiety principle. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 88, 107–120.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Levis, D. J., & Hare, N. (1977). A review of the theoretical rationale and empirical support for the extinction approach of implosive (flooding) therapy. In M. Hersen, R. Eisler, & P. Miller (Eds.), Progress in behavior modification (Vol. 4). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  29. London, P. (1964). The modes and morals of psychotherapy. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  30. Logan, F. A., & Boice, R. (1968). Avoidance of a warning stimulus. Psychonomic Science, 13, 53–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mineka, S. (1979a). The role of fear in theories of avoidance learning, flooding, and extinction. Psychological Bulletin, 86, 985–1010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mineka, S. (1979b). New perspectives on conditioning models and incubation theory: A review of H. Eysenck’s “The conditioning model of neurosis.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2, 178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mineka, S. (1985). Animal models of anxiety-based disorders: Their usefulness and limitations. In A. H. Tuma & J. Maser (Eds.). Anxiety and the anxiety disorders (pp. 199–244). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Mowrer, O. H. (1939). A stimulus-response analysis of anxiety and its role as a reinforcing agent. Psychological Review, 46, 553–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mowrer, O. H. (1948). Learning theory and the neurotic paradox. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 18, 571–610.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Mowrer, O. H. (1950). Learning theory and personality dynamics: Selected papers. New York: Ronald Press.Google Scholar
  37. Mowrer, O. H. (1952). Learning theory and the neurotic fallacy. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 22, 679–689.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Rachman, S. (1969). Treatment by prolonged exposure to high intensity stimulation. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 7, 295–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rachman, S. (1976). The passing of the two-stage theory of fear and avoidance: Fresh possibilities. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 14, 125–131.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Rachman, S. (1977). The conditioning theory of fear-acquisition: A critical examination. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 15, 375–387.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Seeman, W. (1951). On a stimulus-response analysis of insight in psychotherapy. Psychological Review, 58, 302–305.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Sidman, M. (1955a). Some properties of the warning stimulus in avoidance behavior. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 48, 444–450.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Sidman, M. (1955b). On the persistence of avoidance behavior. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 50, 217–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sidman, M. (1957). Conditioned reinforcing and aversive stimuli in an avoidance situation. Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 19, 534–544.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Sidman, M., & Boren, J. J. (1957). The relative aversiveness of warning signal and shock in an avoidance situation. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 55, 339–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  47. Skinner, B. F. (1954). Critique of psychoanalytic concepts and theories. In T. Millon (Ed.), (1967), Theories of psychopathology (pp. 228–235). Philadelphia: Saunders. (Reprinted from Scientific Monthly, 79, 300–305.)Google Scholar
  48. Stampfl, T. G. (1961, May). Implosive therapy: A learning theory derived psychodynamic therapeutic technique. Paper presented at the University of Illinois, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  49. Stampfl, T. G. (1966). Implosive therapy: The theory, the subhuman analogue, the strategy, and the technique. Part I: The theory. In S. G. Armitage (Ed.), Behavior modification techniques in the treatment of emotional disorders (pp. 12–21). Battle Creek, MI: Veterans Administration Publications.Google Scholar
  50. Stampfl, T. G. (1970). Implosive therapy: An emphasis on covert stimulation. In D. J. Levis (Ed.), Learning approaches to therapeutic behavior change (pp. 182–204). Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  51. Stampfl, T. G. (1983a). Exposure treatment for psychiatrists? [Review of Learning theory approaches to psychiatry]. Contemporary Psychology, 28, 527–529.Google Scholar
  52. Stampfl, T. G. (1983b, November). Truly persistent active avoidance responding with one shock trial. Address of the President of the Hull-Spence Society. San Diego: CA.Google Scholar
  53. Stampfl, T. G. (1985, January). Towards an experimental resolution of the neurotic paradox: The role of sequential stimuli, work requirement, and timeout from avoidance. Paper presented at a meeting of the Winter Conference on Animal Learning, Winter Park, CO.Google Scholar
  54. Stampfl, T. G. (1986, August). Learning research and the neurotic paradox. In S. C. Hayes (Chair), Stop running on empty: Some clinical implications of basic research. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  55. Stampfl, T. G., & Levis, D. J. (1967). Essentials of implosive therapy: A learning-theory-based psychodynamic behavioral therapy. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 72, 496–503.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Stampfl, T. G., & Levis, D. J. (1969). Learning theory: An aid to dynamic therapeutic practice. In L. D. Eron & R. Callahan (Eds.), Relationship of theory to practice in psychotherapy (pp. 85–114). Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  57. Stampfl, T. G., & Levis, D. J. (1973). Implosive therapy: Theory and technique. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.Google Scholar
  58. Stampfl, T. G., & Levis, D. J. (1976). Implosive therapy: A behavioral therapy? In J. T. Spence, R. C. Carson, and J. W. Thibaut (Eds.), Behavioral approaches to therapy (pp. 189–110). Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.Google Scholar
  59. Ullmann, L. P., & Krasner, L. (Eds.), (1965). Case studies in behavior modification. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  60. Williams, S. L., & Watson, N. (1985). Perceived danger and perceived self-efficacy as cognitive determinants of acrophobic behavior. Behavior Therapy, 16, 136–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wilson, G. T. (1982). The relationship of learning theories to the behavioural therapies: Problems, prospects, and preferences. In J. C. Boulougouris (Ed.), Learning approaches to psychiatry (pp. 33–56). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas G. Stampfl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA

Personalised recommendations