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Tidbits Psychological

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by Alice Shirell Kaswell, AIR staff

Here are three of my favorite research reports involving fear.

Bold Melodies

"Fear Shrinks with 'Walkman' Music," [Article in German], B. Gierl, Zahnarztliche Mitteilungen, vol.72, no. 16, August 16, 1982, pp. 1769-70.

Enthusiastic Approach to Disgust

"Disgust Sensitivity and the Sex Difference in Fears to Common Indigenous Animals," W.A. Arrindell, S. Mulkens, J. Kok, and J. Vollenbroek, Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 37, no. 3, March 1999, pp. 273-80. (Thanks to Miriam E. Tucker for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, who are at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, report:

Davey's mediational hypothesis [Davey, G. C. L. (1994). Self-reported fears to common indigenous animals in an adult UK population: the role of disgust sensitivity. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 541-554.] suggests that the sex difference in self-assessed animal fears can be accounted for by the sex difference in disgust sensitivity. An empirical test failed to support this hypothesis in a non-clinical sample (N = 214). Holding constant the influences of confounders such as age, fear of contamination, sex roles, neuroticism, psychoticism and disgust sensitivity, biological sex kept emerging as a significant predictor in relation to four types of animal fears (fear-relevant animals, dry or non-slimy invertebrates, slimy or wet looking animals and farm animals). Other things being equal, high disgust sensitivity either lost its predictive capability (in relation to dry or non-slimy invertebrates and slimy or wet looking animals) or predicted high fear of fear-relevant animals and of farm animals inequivalently across, respectively, the sexes (high in females only) and age groups (high in the old only). A multifactorial, interactionist approach should be advocated in the study of the aetiology of animal fears if progress in this area is to be achieved.


"Automatismen, Zwangsneurose und Paranoia" [Automatisms, obsessional neurosis and paranoia], K. Landauer, Internationale Zeitschrift fuer Psychoanalyse, vol. 13, 1927, pp. 10-7. The report's abstract presents a provocative idea:

Landauer shows how an automatism can be replaced by an obsessional symptom. For example, a man while shaving used to play with his watch chain, and repeatedly took out his watch without looking at the time. When the man became convinced by the analytic evidence that this automatism was a masturbation equivalent, his guilty conscience replaced the act by a new symptom. When sharpening his razor his eyes began to itch and he had the obsessive fear that he would rub them and pierce his eyes with the razor.

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