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Question

Dismantling studies have found evidence that which of the following principles is attributable to the effectiveness of systematic desensitization as a treatment for anxiety?

  1. Escape conditioning
  2. Extinction
  3. Satiation
  4. Higher-order conditioning

The Correct Answer is B.

Systematic desensitization was developed as an application of reciprocal inhibition (counterconditioning). However, research using the dismantling strategy suggests that reciprocal inhibition is not the essential component. Instead, the results of this research has led researchers to conclude that repeated exposure to feared stimuli leads to the extinction of the undesirable anxiety response and is responsible for the benefits of systematic desensitization. 

Answer A: Escape conditioning is a form of aversive conditioning in which a subject responds to the presentation of an aversive/unpleasant stimulus by engaging in a behavior to escape that stimulus and the alternative behavior is thus reinforced. It does not allow for continued exposure to the anxiety trigger as is necessary in systematic desensitization.

Answer C: Satiation is an operant conditioning term. It occurs when the frequency of a reinforced behavior decreases despite the continued presence of the reinforcer due to continued contact with the reinforcer to the point of excess and subsequent reduction of the effectiveness of the reinforcer.

Answer D: Higher-order conditioning is a classical conditioning technique in which a neutral stimulus elicits a conditioned response as a result of its pairing with a conditioned stimulus and is not related to systematic desensitization.


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