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Bennett- Levy and Marteau
1984…read more

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· Evolutionary psychology suggests that certain fears are adapted behaviours that
helped our distant ancestors to survive. If we were extremely scared of an animal, it
would help us escape as our body would go into flight or fight mode. The fears of our
ancestors may have been left dormant in our brains.
· Seligman (1971) proposed the concept of `biological preparedness'. This is the
concept that there is an inherited predisposition to fear certain classes of animals,
such as snakes. 3 observations support this belief: 1) the distribution of animal
phobias is non- random 2) Fears of these animals is often not linked to a traumatic
experience 3) Fears often appear during our younger years so we haven't
experienced much but yet are still scared.
· This concept is also supported by Mineka et al (1980), they found that wild- reared
monkeys showed a lot more fear than lab- monkeys. This shows that wild- monkeys
could have created this fear from experience. However, Bennett- Levy and Marteau
found that lab- monkeys showed fear when the snake moved significantly.
· Hinde (1974) also suggested that certain other factors may create a fear. He believed
that humans tend to fear things that have certain characteristics e.g. sliminess or
hairiness. This supports Bennett- Levy and Marteau's experience of treating patients
with phobias. They found that what the patient actually feared was what the feared
felt or looked like.…read more

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· Seligman's concept of biological preparedness
offered no suggestion about the mechanism by
which such preparedness would operate.
· Bennett- Levy and Marteau aimed to investigate
the underlying mechanism- humans are
`biologically prepared' to fear certain stimulus
characteristics in animals, such as sudden
· They predicted that the perceptual
characteristics of small, HARMLESS animals
should be related to the distribution of ratings of
fear and avoidance of these animals.…read more

Slide 4

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· 2 questionnaires were given to 113 participants in a random order.
All of the participants were attending a British Health Centre. The
questionnaires related to HARMLESS animals
· QUESTIONNAIRE 1: Mean age was 35.5 years, 34 females, 30
males, participants were asked to rate how near you would get to
the animal out of 5, participants were asked to rate how fearful they
were of the animal out of 3.
· QUESTIONNAIRE 2: Mean age was 35.1 years, 25 females, 24
males, participants were asked to rate out of 3 how ugly, speedy or
slimy the animal was and how suddenly they move.
· The participants had to rely on memory so they could picture the
animal in question.
· Some of the animals used were an ant, blackbird, baby seal, moth,
mouse, hamster, worm, tortoise etc.…read more

Slide 5

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· It was found that rats were the most scariest animals out of the list provided.
This may be due to the fact that the word harmless wasn't put on the list like
the other animals or the fact that rats are known for carrying disease.
· SEX DIFFERENCES- Females were less willing to pick up/ approach up to
10 of these animals compared to males. Similar results were found in the
fear rating. However, there was no notable sex differences I ratings of
ugliness, sliminess, speediness and suddenness of movement. The men in
group 1 rated themselves as less fearful than the women but were more
responsive to the animals characteristics.
· CORRELATION MATRIX- Speediness and sudden movement are highly
correlated (r= +.95). The correlation between nearness and sudden
movement is +0.50, but when the effect of ugliness is removed it rose to +.
61. Similarly partial correlations were determined for fear and speediness
and nearness and speediness which were significant. All 4 perceptual
ratings are linked to both fear and nearness.…read more

Slide 6

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· Their hypothesis that perceptual characteristics of animals will be related to
fear and nearness ratings was supported.
· Ugly, slimy, speed or sudden movement or animals appear to be
experienced as less- approachable and more fear- provoking than animals
without these qualities .This is also true of animals that were perceived to be
non- harmful.
· This findings support Seligman's idea of biological preparedness.
· However, the results also say that it isn't the animals themselves that
people fear, it's the characteristics of those animals that scare us e.g.
speediness, sliminess etc.
· Additionally, the findings support the `discrepancies principle' (Hinde 1974).
This principle states that we are fearful of animals that are unlike us e.g.
antennae, more than 4 limbs etc.
· These findings can also have an effect on clinical treatment of animal
phobias as people can get treatment based on the characteristics of the
animal (s) they are scared of e.g. sliminess of a slug could be liked with wet
soap, porridge etc then move on to the animal itself. This is in vivo
desensitisation.…read more

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