Fear of snakes in wild- and laboratory-reared rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta)

Susan Mineka*, Richard Keir, Veda Price

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Experiment 1 compared the responses of 10 laboratory-reared and 10 wild-reared rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) to a real snake and to a range of snake-like objects. Most wild-reared monkeys showed considerable fear of the real, toy, and model snakes, whereas most lab-reared monkeys showed only very mild responses. Fear was indexed by unwillingness to approach food on the far side of the snake and by behavioral disturbance. Experiment 2 examined the effectiveness of seven flooding sessions in reducing snake fear in 8 wild-reared rhesus monkeys. Mean latency to reach for food, trials to criterion (four consecutive short latency responses), and total exposure time to criterion declined significantly across flooding sessions. Behavioral disturbance declined within sessions but not across sessions. Results of a final behavioral test revealed that substantial long-lasting changes had occurred in only 3 of the 8 monkeys. The results are discussed in the context of dissociation between different indices of fear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-663
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Learning & Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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