The origins of height fear: An evaluation of neoconditioning explanations

  • Menzies R
  • Parker L
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The present research sought to establish a reliable and valid instrument for assessing the relevance of neoconditioning factors (e.g. latent inhibition, UCS inflation/revaluation, prior fear levels, prior expectancies of harm, fear and pain levels experienced during supposed learning events), in the development of human fear. Fifty-four undergraduate height-fearful students completed the new origins instrument (OQ-II), while 54 matched controls completed a modified version (OQM-II) that examined their prior experiences with heights. In general, few differences between groups were found. Height-fearful and control subjects did not differ on trait anxiety, the frequency of negative encounters with heights, the age at which these events had occurred, prior fear levels, prior expectancies of harm, or reports of UCS inflation/revaluation procedures. However, in a finding directly opposite to that expected from a conditioning account, the mean fear and pain scores reported by subjects who had experienced direct conditioning events were significantly higher in the non-fearful group than in the height-fearful group. These findings are discussed in terms of associative and non-associative models of fear. Copyright (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.

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  • Ross G. Menzies

  • Lisa Parker

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