There are many reasons someone could become afraid of going to the dentist. Majority of people become afraid of the dentist due to a bad experience they have encountered. Just to name a few: the dentist was a painful experience, the dentist made your teeth worse, etc. In my own experience, I was afraid of the dentist because of a horror film. At nine years old, my sister let me watch a horror movie called the dentist. It was about a mentally unstable dentist who tortures some of his patients. A year or so after I had seen this movie my mother surprisingly brings me to the dentist for the first time. As we were walking into the dental office I cannot help but to tremble and burst into tears because I could not stop thinking of the dentist from the movie. That day I only had my teeth cleaned and x-rays. My mother scheduled me to have cavities filled in the next month. My brother and sister taunted me by telling me scary stories about trips to the dental so the day I was scheduled to get my cavities filled. I decided to run away to the library and stayed there until closing. My mother had to reschedule my appointment for the following week. That time she made sure I went.
My conditioned stimuli were triggered by walking into the dental office my condition response was crying and trembling because I was afraid that the dentist would torture me, therefore, my unconditional stimuli were watching the dentist torture and kill his patients. My unconditional response was to be scared of all dentists and run away for a few hours so I would miss my appointment.
My training experience could have occurred through operant conditioning since I did not quite understand that what you watch on television might not be real. If my mother had not forced me to go inside the dental office would still be petrified and I would have never gone to the dentist; my teeth would be in bad shape.
The learned experience could occur through observational learning if my mom or anyone else I knew were scared of the dentist that would have also made me afraid of the dentist because I would be observing their response to the dental. Another reason I might have been scared of going to the dentist was hearing my brother and sister tell me scary stories about how the dentist pulls your teeth out and you can feel every slight of pain.
My mother dragging me into the dental office is where reinforcement was experienced. When my mother gave me no other choice except to get my teeth clean I then realize that the dentist was not so bad.
Courtney from Study Moose
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