Observational conditioning of snake fear in rhesus monkeys

Susan Mineka*, Mark Davidson, Michael Cook, Richard Keir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations


Hypothesized that observational conditioning is involved in the origins of many human and nonhuman primates' fears and phobias. In Exp I, a new index of snake fear in 7 19-28 yr old wild-reared rhesus monkeys and 9 laboratory-reared offspring (aged 8 mo to 6 yrs) was tested. Results show the measure was useful and demonstrated that young Ss raised by parents who had a fear of snakes did not acquire the fear in the absence of any specific experience with snakes. In Exp II, using 5 of the wild-reared Ss and 6 of the laboratory-reared Ss from Exp I, 5 of 6 offspring acquired an intense and persistent fear of snakes as a result of observing their wild-reared parents behave fearfully in the presence of real, toy, or model snakes for a short period of time. The fear was not context specific and showed no significant signs of diminution at 3-mo follow-up. (49 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-372
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 1984


  • observational conditioning of snake fear, 19-28 yr old wild-reared rhesus monkeys & 8 mo to 6 yr old laboratory-reared offspring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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