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Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov established the study of classical conditioning (Bourne & Russo, 1998).
Kalat (1998) states that classical conditioning involves a modification of involuntary behaviour.
Suffering from a phobia can be a debilitating and distressing condition.
Phobias induce physiological responses and can impact upon daily routines, inhibiting life experiences and opportunities.
This is why we are more likely to fear snakes more than rocks.
Our ancestors developed genes of fear for objects that were harmful to them and passed them down to us, so we are more 'prepared' to fear them over objects that were not harmful to them in the past.
If evolution prepares us to learn to be afraid of fire, we will make an association between fear and fire much more quickly than between fear and a non prepared stimulus such as a rock.
These things included situations which can be dangerous/threatening to humans early in their evolution, such as fire, deep water, lightning, and heights.
While more people are likely to have unpleasant experiences with non-biological stimuli there is research to suggest that phobias have a biological specificity i.e.
most phobias are based upon a fear of biological stimuli (Jacobs & Nadel, 1985).