Benett-Levy & Marteau (1984)

Benett-Levy & Marteau (1984) - Fear of animals: what is prepared?

Context & Aims, Procedures, Findings & Conclusions, Methodology, Alternate Evidence

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  • Created by: anika
  • Created on: 13-02-13 21:33

Context & Aims

Evolutionary psychologists suggest that phobias are adaptive behaviors that helped our ancestors survive

Seligman (1971) - suggested humans are biologically prepared to fear certain animals, says fear is not necessarily triggered by any traumatic experience e.g. fearing a lion despite never seeing one before

Mineka et al (1980) - conducted piece of research using wild-reared & lab-reared monkeys & found wild-reared monkeys showed considerable amount of fear to real & toy snakes but lab-reared monkeys only showed mild fear. Bennett-levy and Marteau tested this again & found lab-reared moneys showed a lot of fear to snake movements (B-L&M conclude we have a prepared template not to fear snakes but to fear snake like movement)

Hinde (1974) - suggested certain characteristics evoke a fear response, B-L&M found this is true when they treated phobia patients & noticed patients' description of what they feared most focused greatly on what the animal looks and feels like

Aims: Bennett-levy and Marteau aimed to investigate whether we are biologically prepared to fear certain stimulus configuration in animals such as rapid movement and their differences from the human form

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  • 113 participants attending a British health centre (59 females & 54 males)
  • Participants gained through convenient sampling
  • Participants randomly assigned 2 groups
  • G1 - 34 females, 30 males | G2 - 25 females, 24 males (MA for both: 35.5 years)
  • Research method: Questionnaire & informal interview
  • Design: Correlational
  • Variables measured: characteristics of animals & reactions to animals
  • Participants given 2 questionnaires, G1 given Q1 & G2 given Q2
  • Q1&Q2 include 29 small, harmless animals
  • Q1: designed to measure self reported fear & avoidance of animals & insects, 2 scales = fear scale & nearness scale
  • Q2: designed to measure self reported ratings of same 29 animals & insects along 4 perceptual dimensions (ugly, slimy, speedy, how suddenly they appear to move)
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  • Sample: simple method & uses both males + females - allows for gender differences to occur
  • Ethics: more ethical due to participants not being confronted with live animals (less stress and harm caused)
  • Method: questionnaire - gives both quantitative & qualititative data


  • Method: questionnaire - lacks ecological validity (asking people is not the same as seeing live animals)
  • Likert scale - may cause fatigue effect (participants may get bored easily
  • Small sample & no control sample is used
  • Culturally biased (only British people used)
  • Reliability - not representative of population at large
  • Validity - Social desirability biased (embarassment of being scared - men mostly)
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