Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Diminishing Fear of Spiders: A Function of Sleep Following Exposure to Phobic Stimuli
by Gray, David D., Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2020, 126; 27744942
Abstract (Summary)

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly occurring mental disorders and understanding them is important. Learning theorists suggest that phobias are conditioned responses to unconditioned stimuli, and research supports the theory that extinction may actually be the learning of a new memory rather than the unlearning of an old memory. Mounting evidence points to sleep as an important factor in learning and memory and research suggests that sleep plays a role in phobia extinction. This study examined the effectiveness of sleep in reducing physiological arousal and behavioral avoidance in individuals in a sleep versus wake condition. Due to the often tenuous reliability of self-report measures (Cook & Campbell, 1979; Schacter, 1999), this study included a behavioral component to measure participants’ willingness to engage with the feared stimuli and physiological reactivity above and beyond self-report. A distal measure was also included to test for long-term effects. Hypothesis 1 was that individuals who slept after exposure to spider pictures would have less physiological arousal than individuals in the wake group who do not sleep when re-exposed to novel spider pictures. Hypothesis 2 was that individuals who slept following exposure would be more willing than their counterparts to risk contact with a spider during the behavioral task. The results of this study did not support either hypothesis though the results did trend towards support. Further study with a greater sample size is indicated.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Harris-Britt, April
Commitee: Bryson, William J., Bush, Joseph P., Edwards, Christopher L.
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: The School of Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 81/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral Sciences, Clinical psychology, Behavioral psychology
Keywords: Exposure, Memory consolidation, Memory formation, Sleep, Virtual reality
Publication Number: 27744942
ISBN: 9781658486187
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