Selective Associations in the Observational Conditioning of Fear in Rhesus Monkeys

Michael Cook, Susan Mineka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Three experiments explored the issue of selective associations in the observational conditioning of fear. Experiment 1 results indicated that observer rhesus monkeys acquired a fear of snakes through watching videotapes of model monkeys behaving fearfully with snakes. In Experiment 2, observers watched edited videotapes that showed models reacting either fearfully to toy snakes and nonfearfully to artificial flowers (SN+/FL-) or vice versa (FL+/SN-). SN+/FL- observers acquired a fear of snakes but not of flowers; FL+/SN- observers did not acquire a fear of either stimulus. In Experiment 3, monkeys solved complex appetitive discriminative (PAN) problems at comparable rates regardless of whether the discriminative stimuli were the videotaped snake or the flower stimuli used in Experiment 2. Thus, monkeys appear to selectively associate snakes with fear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-389
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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