Inhibition of vicariously learned fear in children using positive modeling and prior exposure

Askew, Chris, Reynolds, Gemma, Fielding-Smith, Sarah and Field, Andy P. (2016) Inhibition of vicariously learned fear in children using positive modeling and prior exposure. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125(2), pp. 279-291. ISSN (print) 0021-843X

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One of the challenges to conditioning models of fear acquisition is to explain how different individuals can experience similar learning events and only some of them subsequently develop fear. Understanding factors moderating the impact of learning events on fear acquisition is key to understanding the etiology and prevention of fear in childhood. This study investigates these moderators in the context of vicarious (observational) learning. Two experiments tested predictions that the acquisition or inhibition of fear via vicarious learning is driven by associative learning mechanisms similar to direct conditioning. In Experiment 1, 3 groups of children aged 7 to 9 years received 1 of 3 inhibitive information interventions-psychoeducation, factual information, or no information (control)-prior to taking part in a vicarious fear learning procedure. In Experiment 2, 3 groups of children aged 7 to 10 years received 1 of 3 observational learning interventions-positive modeling (immunization), observational familiarity (latent inhibition), or no prevention (control)-before vicarious fear learning. Results indicated that observationally delivered manipulations inhibited vicarious fear learning, while preventions presented via written information did not. These findings confirm that vicarious learning shares some of the characteristics of direct conditioning and can explain why not all individuals will develop fear following a vicarious learning event. They also suggest that the modality of inhibitive learning is important and should match the fear learning pathway for increased chances of inhibition. Finally, the results demonstrate that positive modeling is likely to be a particularly effective method for preventing fear-related observational learning in children

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was funded by Economic and Social Research Council grant ES/J00751X/1 awarded to Chris Askew and Andy Field.
Uncontrolled Keywords: anxiety, vicarious learning, childhood fears, fear prevention, observational learning
Research Area: Psychology
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (until 2017) > School of Psychology, Criminology and Sociology (from November 2012)
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Depositing User: Katrina Clifford
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2016 09:28
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2016 12:41

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