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Vicarious learning and the development of fear in children

Askew, C, Zioga, M and Field, AP (2004) Vicarious learning and the development of fear in children In: British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2004, 2004-04-15 - 2004-04-17, London, UK.

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Objectives: It has long been assumed that children can acquire fear of a stimulus by observing another person acting fearfully towards it. However, unequivocal evidence for the ‘vicarious learning’ pathway has remained elusive because almost all previous studies have involved some form of retrospective measure, and so were susceptible to inaccuracies of longterm memory. The present study uses a prospective manipulation which tests whether children’s fear beliefs about a stimulus increase after observing it together with fearful faces. Methods: Half of a group of children aged between six and nine (N=121) were presented with pictures of two novel animals paired with either fearful or happy faces. A third animal was not paired with any faces. The other half of the group saw no pairings at all (control group). Fear beliefs about each animal were measured before and after the presentation phase using a selfreport questionnaire. Analysis: A mixed ANOVA found that compared to the control group fearful-face pairings maintained children’s fear belief levels, whilst happy-face pairings reduced children’s fear beliefs about the animals compared to the control group. Conclusions: Experiencing animals together with fearful faces appears to maintain fear beliefs where mere exposure to the animals (control group) would normally be expected to reduce fear beliefs. Also, interestingly, pairing happy faces together with an animal appear to reduce fear beliefs more than mere exposure alone. Thus, the results appear to represent the first steps towards showing how children’s fear beliefs about a stimulus can be affected by observing another’s facial expression.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Conference Paper)
Subjects : Psychology
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors : Askew, C, Zioga, M and Field, AP
Date : August 2004
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2004 British Psychological Society
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID Psychological Society,
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 15 Nov 2016 15:44
Last Modified : 06 Jul 2019 05:16

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