McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Marni Sullivan

marni.Sullivan.jpg

Major and Classification

Neuroscience

Faculty Mentor

  • Stanley Huey, Ph.D.

Department

  • Psychology

McNair Project

Establishing A Fear Masking Index to Determine Efficacy of One-Session Treatment for Specific Phobias

Specific phobias have debilitating effects on sufferers, and can potentially impair their ability to function in daily life. The fear response occurs when a specific object or situation is presented that has no obvious connection to dangerous or anxiety-inducing circumstances. While treatment options are available, there are questions about the effectiveness of such therapies as results depend on self-reports. This study evaluates the success of a one-session treatment (OST) process for specific phobias was in controlling panic reactions to phobic stimuli over extended periods of time, and whether there is a discrepancy between self-reporting and the observation of nonverbal cues indicating fear. The original figures from an OST pilot study is analyzed for conflict between self-reported reaction and those observed by the researcher. An index that rates nonverbal cues split into four categories is assessed from the filmed Behavioral Assessment Tests (BATs) to determine potential fear masking displayed by the subject during the tests. The figures are statistically compared to the self-reported results to establish any biases or conflict that could impact the treatment's efficacy. The results offer insight about how fear masking from phobic individuals can indicate efficacy levels of desensitization treatments.