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The verbal information pathway to fear and heart rate changes in children

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Background: 

Although many studies have now demonstrated that threat information is sufficient to change children's beliefs and behaviours towards novel animals, there is no evidence to suggest that it influences the physiological component of the fear emotion. Methods: 

An experiment is reported in which children (N = 26) aged between 6 and 9 were given threat, positive or no information about three novel animals and then asked to place their hands into boxes that they believed to contain each of these animals. Their average heart rate during each approach task was measured. Results: 

One-way analysis of variance revealed significant differences in the average heart rate when approaching the three boxes: heart rates were significantly higher when approaching the box containing the animal associated with threat information compared to when approaching the control animal. Conclusions: 

These findings suggest that fear information acts not only upon cognitive and behavioural aspects of the fear emotion, but also on the physiological component.
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Keywords: Anxiety; conditioning; fears; information processing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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