Fears, phobias, and preparedness: Toward an evolved module of fear and fear learning

Arne Öhman*, Susan Mineka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1780 Scopus citations


An evolved module for fear elicitation and fear learning with 4 characteristics is proposed. (a) The fear module is preferentially activated in aversive contexts by stimuli that are fear relevant in an evolutionary perspective. (b) Its activation to such stimuli is automatic. (c) It is relatively impenetrable to cognitive control. (d) It originates in a dedicated neural circuitry, centered on the amygdala. Evidence supporting these propositions is reviewed from conditioning studies, both in humans and in monkeys; illusory correlation studies; studies using unreportable stimuli; and studies from animal neuroscience. The fear module is assumed to mediate an emotional level of fear learning that is relatively independent and dissociable from cognitive learning of stimulus relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-522
Number of pages40
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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