BLAIRSVILLE: Psychology students help others overcome fears
November 30, 2012 11:00 AM

BLAIRSVILLE -- Students in Jaison Blystone's psychology class at Blairsville High School are becoming experts in behavioral psychology.

Before the Thanksgiving break, Blystone and his student teacher Alex Pope gave their psychology students a video project in which students had to think of a situation in which they could perform classical conditioning on someone and create a video of the experiment.

In class, students have been learning about classical conditioning and its effects on the body.

The basic premise is that an experimenter can introduce a stimulus that over time leads to a predictable or "conditioned" response from the subject. For these projects, students worked in small groups. 

Senior Myria Wendel and her group decided to use systematic desensitization to help a group member, the test subject, extinguish her fear of heights. In this case, they began by having the test subject climb to the top of a set of bleachers at a local Little League field. As the project went on, they increased the height at which the test subject had to stand and ended their experiment with a bridge. 

The test subject of the group was senior Kaitlyn Lipinski.

As the test subject, she said, "At first I was scared because I had to deal with my strong fear of heights, but in the end I was really grateful. I had such positive team members that helped me get through my fear and gave me encouragement every step of the way." 

Senior Myria Wendel said, "Our project proved to be very successful. It was very cool to see the way it works in a person with your own test and subject."

Another group also performed systematic desensitization and flooding in their project. Senior Carly Conigliaro and her group tried to break a young person's fear of peanut butter. 

According to Conigliaro, "We baked cookies with peanut butter in them and gave them to the test subject. We then continued to expose him to peanut butter, and then eventually we had him forget his fear and got him to eat plain peanut butter."

Students filmed the actual experiments with their iPads and edited the video using iMovie.

Wendel, who had never used the app before, said, "I actually did enjoy the project. It was the first time I had ever used iMovie and it was actually really simple to navigate after you got used to it." 

The students will soon be presenting their video to their class.

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