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The prevention and reversal of vicarious learning of fear in children aged 6 - 11 years

Askew, C, Reynolds, G and Field, AP (2015) The prevention and reversal of vicarious learning of fear in children aged 6 - 11 years In: BPS Developmental Section & Social Section Psychology Annual Conference 2015, 2015-09-09 - 2015-09-11, Manchester, UK.

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Objectives: Evidence has shown that children can develop fear beliefs and avoidance behaviour for a stimulus by observing someone else’s fear of it. The current set of studies investigated interventions to prevent or reverse vicarious fear learning in children. Method: Across three studies, a total of 195 children (aged 6-11 years) were presented with a vicarious fear learning procedure consisting of pictures of novel Australian marsupials together with either pictures of fearful adult faces or no faces. Prior to vicarious learning in Experiment 1, two groups of children saw the animals either with happy faces (immunisation) or alone (latent inhibition). In Experiment 2 some children were informed post-vicarious learning that the fearful model was less scared than they appeared to be (US devaluation). In Experiment 3 a group of children saw the animals again after vicarious learning but this time with happy faces (vicarious counterconditioning). Measures of children’s fear beliefs, avoidance, heart rate and attentional bias were taken for the animals. Findings: Results showed that: a) prior neutral or positive modelling experiences with animals can prevent vicarious learning; b) vicariously learnt fear responses can be reversed using US devaluation; and c) vicarious counterconditioning can successfully reverse vicariously learnt avoidance preferences, heart rate responses and attentional bias for animals. Discussion: Vicarious learning can increase children’s fear-related beliefs, avoidance behaviour, physiological responses and attentional bias for stimuli. Positive modelling can be used to prevent or reverse vicarious learning. Additionally, changing how children think about the fearful model’s behaviour can also reverse fear.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Conference Paper)
Subjects : Psychology
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Askew, C
Reynolds, G
Field, AP
Date : 9 September 2015
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2015 British Psychological Society
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID Psychological Society,
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 Nov 2016 11:41
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:56

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