Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Edward H. Tiller

Second Advisor

Dr. Frederick J. Kozub


This experiment was designed to answer two questions: (1) Is relaxation training a necessary element in the reduction of phobic anxiety responses? and (2) Does reciprocal inhibition by relaxation constitute the most viable conceptual basis for the successful operation of desensitization therapy, as compared to alternative interpretations investigated? An equal number of freshman and sophomore college students were assigned to one of three experimental groups and a control group (Reciprocal Inhibition, Habituation, Facilitation, and Control). Treatment effects were evaluated with regard to reduction of snake-phobic anxiety by way of two physiological measures (skin conductance and respiration) and a behavioral measure (approach test). Significant F ratios were obtained for skin conductance scores (p .05) under the Habituation condition and for approach test scores (p < .01) under the Facilitation condition. It was concluded that relaxation training, although possibly functioning as a facilitation agent, is not a necessary element in the desensitization of anxiety responses, since Ss not undergoing training were seen to manifest significant fear reduction. Further, it must be concluded that the comparative effectiveness of the treatments employed is a function of the measure being taken, be it physiological or behavioral. With reference to future research, depending upon what aspect of fear is to be measured, i.e., skin conductance recordings or the approach to a feared object, investigators should select that method which has been shown to be maximally effective in modifying that aspect of fear.

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