Some of the earliest objective approaches to the removal of specific anxieties and fears in children were based on the fact that neurotic (learned, unadaptive) responses can be eliminated by the repeated and simultaneous evocation of stronger incompatible responses. An early and well-known example of this approach was the experiment of Jones (1) in which a child's fear of rabbits was gradually eliminated by introducing a “pleasant stimulus” i.e., food (thus evoking the anxiety-inhibiting response of eating) in the presence of the rabbit. The general method of “gradual habituation” was advocated by Jersild and Holmes (2) as being superior to all others in the elimination of children's fears. This rationale was crystallized in Wolpe's (3) formulation of the Reciprocal inhibition Principle, which deserves the closest possible study:
“If a response antagonistic to anxiety can be made to occur in the presence of anxietyevoking stimuli so that is accompanied by a complete or partial suppression of the anxiety responses, the bond between these stimuli and the anxiety responses will be weakened.”
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