Reinforced practice and reduction of different kinds of fears in adults and children

Harold Leitenberg, Edward J Callahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not fears with different origins, course and chronicity could be reduced by a common treatment program. A number of therapeutic procedures that had been experimentally demonstrated to be individually important in prior behavior modification studies with neurotic disorders were combined into a single therapeutic program called 'reinforced practice.' The combined elements were: graduated and repeated practice in approaching actual phobic stimuli: reinforcement for gains in performance; feedback of measurable progress; and instructions designed to arouse expectations of gradual success. In each of four experiments involving four different fears, namely fear of heights, snakes and electric shock in adults, and fear of darkness in young children, Ss who expeienced the 'reinforced practice' procedure improved their performance by a significant and substantial margin as compared to untreated control Ss. These results suggest that regardless of different etiologies, regardless of whether or not the fears are 'rational' or 'irrational,' and regardless of whether or not the fears are transitory or long lasting, the same treatment procedure can be equally effective in reducing escape-avoidance behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1973
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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