Date of Original Version




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Abstract or Description

Fear is one of the most universal human emotions and many common fears, such as aversions toward predatory animals, has been observed cross-culturally. Previous research has indicated that humans have an evolved predator detection mechanism (Mineka & Ohman, 2002). The present research explored this innate predator detection mechanism in infants by testing whether they are able to learn associations involving predators more quickly than associations involving non-predators. Eleven-month-old infants were shown images of snakes, spiders, flowers, and mushrooms paired with happy or scared faces. Infants’ looking times were recorded to determine differences in how quickly they learned associations involving predators and non-predators. In addition, looking times were recorded to determine differences in the increase of attention to novel stimuli following habituation to predators and to non-predators. The results indicate that there was no difference in looking times between predator and nonpredator stimuli during the habituation phase and did not show a differential increase in attention to predator stimuli and non-predator stimuli following habituation. Future research is needed to further investigate this mechanism in infants.


Department of Psychology

David Rakison, advisor