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The verbal threat information pathway to fear in children: the longitudinal effects on fear cognitions and the immediate effects on avoidance behavior

By Andy Field, Joanne Lawson and Robin Banerjee


Verbal information has long been assumed to be an indirect pathway to fear. Children (aged 6-8 or 12-13 years) were exposed to threat, positive, or no information about 3 novel animals to see the long-term impact on their fear cognitions and the immediate impact on avoidance behavior. Their directly (self-report) and indirectly (implicit association task) measured attitudes toward the animals changed congruent with the information provided, and the changes persisted up to 6 months later. Verbal threat information also induced behavioral avoidance of the animal. Younger children formed stronger animal-threat and animal-safe associations because of threat and positive verbal information than older children, but there were negligible age effects on self-reported fear beliefs and avoidance behaviors. These results support theories of fear acquisition that suppose that verbal information affects components of the fear emotion

Publisher: American Psychological Association
Year: 2008
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