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Vicarious learning and unlearning of fear in childhood via mother and stranger models.

Dunne, G and Askew, C (2013) Vicarious learning and unlearning of fear in childhood via mother and stranger models. Emotion, 13 (5). pp. 974-980.

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Evidence shows that anxiety runs in families. One reason may be that children are particularly susceptible to learning fear from their parents. The current study compared children's fear beliefs and avoidance preferences for animals following positive or fearful modeling by mothers and strangers in vicarious learning and unlearning procedures. Children aged 6 to 10 years (N = 60) were exposed to pictures of novel animals either alone (control) or together with pictures of their mother or a stranger expressing fear or happiness. During unlearning (counterconditioning), children saw each animal again with their mother or a stranger expressing the opposite facial expression. Following vicarious learning, children's fear beliefs increased for animals seen with scared faces and this effect was the same whether fear was modeled by mothers or strangers. Fear beliefs and avoidance preferences decreased following positive counterconditioning and increased following fear counterconditioning. Again, learning was the same whether the model was the child's mother or a stranger. These findings indicate that children in this age group can vicariously learn and unlearn fear-related cognitions from both strangers and mothers. This has implications for our understanding of fear acquisition and the development of early interventions to prevent and reverse childhood fears and phobias.

Item Type: Article
Subjects : Psychology
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Dunne, G
Askew, C
Date : October 2013
DOI : 10.1037/a0032994
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2016 American Psychological Association, all rights reserved.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Anxiety, Child, Conditioning (Psychology), Fear, Phobic Disorders, Transfer (Psychology)
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 14 Nov 2016 10:28
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:55

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