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Effect of disgust-related vicarious learning on children's fear beliefs for animals

Askew, C and Taskirn, K (2011) Effect of disgust-related vicarious learning on children's fear beliefs for animals In: European Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (EABCT) 41st Annual Congress 2011, 2011-08-31 - 2011-09-03, Reykjavik, Iceland.

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Objectives: Studies indicate a link between the disgust emotion and animal phobias. However, relatively few studies have used experimental methods, making conclusions about causality problematic. Using an experimental procedure, Muris et al. (2008) recently demonstrated increased fear beliefs in children given disgust-related information about animals. The current study utilised Askew & Field’s (2007) paradigm to investigate whether disgust-related vicarious (observational) learning experiences also contribute to the development of children’s fears. Methods: Pictures of three Australian marsupials (the quoll, quokka and cuscus) were presented to 56 children (aged 7 - 10 years) on a computer screen. One animal was presented with pictures of faces expressing disgust, one with faces showing happiness and a third with no faces (control) in three counterbalanced within-subject conditions. Measures of fearrelated and disgust-related beliefs for the animals were taken before and after the animal-face presentations. In addition, children’s approach-avoidance behaviour for the animals was determined by measuring the distance between where they placed a figure representing themselves on a board (the ‘nature reserve’) and each of the animals. Results: Children’s fear beliefs increased for animals they had seen with disgust faces. These increases were positively associated with increases in disgust-related beliefs for these animals. In addition, the nature reserve task indicated children preferred to avoid the animal they had seen with disgusted faces. Conclusions: The study demonstrated that observing adults’ disgust responses to animals can encourage children to form fear beliefs and avoidance behaviour for those animals. This suggests a possible causal link between vicarious learning, the disgust emotion and fear-related responses to animals. Thus the findings have implications for our understanding of the role of vicarious learning and disgust in the development of fears and phobias in childhood.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Conference Paper)
Subjects : Psychology
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Askew, C
Taskirn, K
Date : 31 August 2011
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 17 Nov 2016 14:08
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:56

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