Saavedra and Silverman
(Evaluation Essay)

P – Point (Strength/Weakness) E – Explain the point E – Example from the study R – Relate to the point on why is it a strength / weakness in the study
Low in validity The extent to which a researcher is testing what they claim to be testing.

For example, the researchers worked closely with both the participant and his mother.

Additionally, the boy was fully aware that he was undergoing a therapy with the intention of improving his phobic symptoms

The lack of objectivity & anonymity between researcher and participant of a case study can compromise the validity of the study.

The boy’s awareness of the study’s aim could affect the way he scores himself on the rating scale, therefore increasing the risk of demand characteristics

Low on generalisability The extent to which the findings of one study apply to others.

This case study involved a specific type of phobia for buttons which is not a common type of phobia  and the sample only consisted of one participant who was a 9 year old American-Hispanic boy.

The small sample size and the rarity of the boy’s phobia makes this study less representative of the wider population as they are focusing on the individual rather than a group of people. This approach can be seen as being reductionist as it ignores the way we do behave in groups.
Case study (strength) A case study is a detailed research involving one participant. For example, Saveedra & Silverman successfully treated a 9 year old boy with a button phobia and feelings of disgust using exposure-based therapy. The rarity of the boy’s phobia makes the use of a case study valuable as it allows researcher to obtain in depth data about unique behaviours. Additionally, because the boy was studied while in treatment, researchers were also able to study the effectiveness of the treatment. These ensure that the data gathered are rich and detailed.
Usefulness Usefulness refers to the contribution that the particular research makes to society. For example, the boy’s disgust/fear for buttons was found out using a Feelings Thermometer (rated on a scale of 0–8). The use of a rating scale allowed the extent of distress to be measured over time. This might be useful for schools to use with students who show fear to help understand what is causing the fear in a child at school which can in turn guide the choice of treatment for the child.
Nature vs. Nurture (Strength)

This debate focuses on whether particular behaviours are innate (nature) or learned (nurture).

This study supports the nurture side of the debate.

For example, the 9 year old boy in this study developed his phobia when he tried to take buttons on a bowl from his teacher’s desk, but slipped and the bowl fell on him. His avoidance of buttons got worse and he avoided wearing clothes with buttons.

Imaginal exposure which involved imagining scenarios related to buttons and cognitive restructuring which involves replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts were used to treat the boy’s phobia

Saavedra and Silverman were able to explain the learning process behind the boy’s phobia which included associating feelings of disgust to buttons following the negative incident that happened in his school.

Additionally, the effectiveness of imaginal exposure and cognitive restructuring in changing the boy’s behaviour and reaction towards buttons provides evidence to support that in this boy, phobias are learned rather than inherited.

Subjectivity (rating scale) (weakness) Subjectivity refers to a viewpoint that can be influenced by emotions, opinions, and personal feelings. For example, Saveedra and Silverman used an interview with responses on a ‘feelings thermometer’ which was rated on a scale of 0 (least distressing) to 8 (severely distressing). The ‘feelings thermometer’ included mildly arousing items such as “large plastic buttons (clear) – rated as 4” to stronger items such as “small plastic buttons (clear) – rated as 8” These data are subjective as the boy with the button phobia gave his own personal judgement as to which number on the scale represented his feelings. Therefore, these data might be influenced by demand characteristics or social desirability bias hence making subjectivity a weakness of this study.

Other analysis:

Classical conditioning – This follows the idea of learning through association.