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Vicarious learning and children's acquisition of fear

Askew, C and Field, AP (2005) Vicarious learning and children's acquisition of fear In: British Psychological Society 2005 Quinquennial Conference, 2005-03-30 - 2005-04-02, Manchester, UK.

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Objectives: Despite widespread acceptance of Rachman’s (Behav. Res. Ther. 15 (1977) 375–387) proposition that fears can be acquired vicariously (observationally), evidence has remained equivocal. Almost all past studies have been criticised for methodological weaknesses: in particular for studying adult phobic populations using retrospective measures which are likely to be prone to inaccuracies of long-term memory. In contrast, the present study uses a prospective manipulation to investigate whether children’s fear beliefs about a novel stimulus increase after seeing it together with scared faces. Methods: A group of eight- to nine-year-olds (N=50) were presented with pictures of two novel animals together with either fearful or happy faces. A third animal was not paired with any faces. Fear beliefs about each animal were measured by self-report questionnaire before and after pairing. An affective priming task was used to obtain implicit measures of attitude towards the animals. Measures were taken again one week later. Results: A repeated measures ANOVA found that fear beliefs increased for animals paired with fearful faces and decreased for animals paired with happy faces compared to the non-paired animal. The results of the affective priming task indicated negative attitudes towards animals which had been in negative pairings compared to animals in positive pairings. Significant differences in fear beliefs and attitudes were still present one week later. Conclusions: Seeing novel animals together with fearful faces appears to increase children’s fear beliefs and negative attitudes toward the animal. Thus, the results show how children’s fear beliefs about a previously unknown stimulus can be affected just by observing another’s facial expressions. The findings have implications for both the theory and treatment of fears.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Conference Paper)
Subjects : Psychology
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Askew, C
Field, AP
Date : August 2005
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2005 British Psychological Society
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID Psychological Society,
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 Nov 2016 09:41
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:55

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