According to Huffpost Celebrity (“Phobias,” 2013), Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Aniston, and Travis Barker are all afraid to fly. Each became fearful of flying after experiencing a traumatic flying experience. Franklin has not flown since 1982 when she flew in a small plane that experienced tremendous turbulence. Aniston has become fearful and anxious when flying since a trip through an electrical field in a plane. Barker recently refused to join his bank in Australia. He has not flown since 2008 when he was involved in a plane accident that resulted in two friends dying.
Phobias are a common result of classical conditioning (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). A fear of flying can develop after a traumatic experience occurs on a plane. The person is not afraid to fly. Then, the person gets on a plane and has a tremendously frightening experience. The anxiety associated with that experience, including fear, nervousness, and increased mortality salience becomes associated with planes, and flying in particular. Thereafter, if the individual does not purposely address that fear by forcing himself or herself to fly again, the fear will remain unabated as in the case of Franklin and Barker. In fact, Franklin’s original anxiety was likely not that severe, however, by allowing her anxiety and nervousness to prevent her from flying, it became worse and turned into a complete phobia or fear of flying. Barker’s fear is likely more severe and will be more difficult to overcome because his experience involved an actual plane crash and the death of his friends.
Kristen Stewart is afraid of horseback riding; however, horseback riding was required for her role in Snow White and the Huntsman. Although she was not happy about it, she managed to overcome her fear while making the movie. First, this choice will aid her in extinguishing her fear. Experiencing the stimulus (horseback riding) without anything bad occurring (unconditioned response) will help to disassociate horseback riding from negative consequences. Further, Stewart’s courage in facing her fear was motivated by the incentive of making a movie. However, this could also be viewed as a form of operant conditioning. She purposely chose to take on the role in the movie, despite her fear, because of the primary reinforcers involved, including financial and career gains. These positive benefits may help counteract the original automatically conditioned response. When faced with another situation of horseback riding she can remember that she has already successfully ridden a horse without mishap, as well as experience the positive feelings associated with doing well in the movie.
Celebrity phobias: 13 stars who fear everyday things. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/22/celebrity-phobias-stars-fear_n_2738783.html
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.