Monthly Archives: September 2017

Acrophobia be Damned

Over the past several years I have had the unpleasant experience of acrophobia (fear of heights). My first experience occurred during a much-anticipated trip to Italy. I was walking up the circular steps of the Duomo Climb to the Top of Florence’s Duomo to the cupola when all the sudden an intense fear overcame me. My excitement in viewing the frescoes and Florence were overcome with a sense of doom and panic. This intense fear filled me with angst, as the only way to exit was to walk around the entire circular cupola to reach the exit on the other side. The large crowds propelled me forward as I held onto the wall for support. Eventually, I did make it to the other side and began the quick descent down the stairs. It has been two years since this episode and I have experienced quite a few similar incidents that has altered my lifestyle. However, recently I learned of a possible cure for my acrophobia through a technique called observational learning.

Observational learning is a concept Bandura (1986) observed from his Social Cognitive Theory of learning. This theory believes learning is achieved through observations and processes to stimuli and responses (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). More specifically, Bandura’s (1986) observational technique focusses on four processes that coincide with learning: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Attention is the ability to learn the observed behavior as its occurring. Retention is the ability to remember the learned behavior that you witnessed. Problems with attention and retention have been demonstrated to take a longer time to cure phobias (Yarwood, 2017). Reproduction is being able to perform the learned behavior. However, one must have the motivation required to engage in the learned behavior. To be cured of this phobia, I will have to focus on all four of these processes and perform the same behaviors exhibited by someone modeling the desired behaviors. However, before I can perform these behaviors I need to have self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is the belief that one has the confidence to exhibit control over a desired behavior (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Obviously, I lack self-efficacy because I am extremely fearful of heights and do not have to skill set to overcome this phobia. My hope is that with the observational technique, I will overcome this fear and once again be able to explore all the wonderful landscapes of my environment.

Unbeknownst to my family members, I tried to incorporate this technique while on a hike near an overlook. I watched as my family members climbed rocks on an overlook and it proved to be a challenging task. My children and husband have no fears of heights and I tried to just watch as they sat on the rocks of the overlook and marveled at the canyon down below. This proved ineffective because my attention was not focusing on their behaviors. I would close or cover my eyes as I watched them get closer and closer to the edge of the canyon. Obviously, this exercise proved to be a challenging task and I will be seeking professional help in the hopes of curing my acrophobia.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., and Coutts, L. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. (2ed). Washington D.C., Sage Publications.

Yarwood, M. (n.d.). Psych 424 Module Lesson 5: Health and Clinical/Counseling – Part 2. PSU World Campus. Retrieved from