The psychology of fear

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The psychology of fear

  1. 1. The Psychology of Fear.
  2. 2. What is the psychology of fear? • Fear is a powerful and primitive human emotion. It alerts us to the presence of danger. Fear can be divided into two stages, biochemical and emotional. The biochemical response is universal, while the emotional response is very individual.
  3. 3. Biochemical Reaction. • When we meet a perceived danger, our bodies respond in specific ways. Physical reactions to fear include sweating, increased heart rate and high adrenaline levels. This physical response is known as the “fight or flight” response, in which the body prepares itself to either enter combat or run away. • This biochemical reaction is an evolutionary development. It is an automatic response and is crucial to survival.
  4. 4. Emotional Response • The emotional response to fear is highly personal. Some people are adrenaline junkies, that thriving on extreme sports and other fear thrill situations. Others have a negative reaction to the feeling of fear, avoiding fear situations at all costs. Although the physical reaction is the same, fear may be perceived as either a positive or negative.
  5. 5. An example of fear (Halloween). • The entire Halloween industry has been built on people’s enjoyment of fear. Many people avoid situations in which there is a high risk of actual injury. Yet for some strange reason enjoy the experience of being scared in an environment that is actually safe. Horror films are another example of this phenomenon. • Film examples : Halloween (1978) Trick or Treat (1986) Satan’s Little Helper (2004)
  6. 6. Consistency with the same fears. • Repeated experience with similar situations leads to awareness. This greatly reduces both the fear response and the resulting emotion. This leads adrenaline junkies to seek out new and bigger thrills. It also forms the basis of some phobia treatments, which helps on slowly minimizing the fear response by making it feel familiar to people. • For example  If someone was afraid of height, gradually getting higher and higher might eventually make them not have that phobia anymore.
  7. 7. Psychology of Phobias • One characteristic of anxiety disorders can be a tendency to develop a fear of fears. It is shown that most people tend to experience fear during a situation that is perceived as scary, those who suffer from anxiety disorders may become afraid that they will experience a fear. They perceive their fear responses as negative, and go out of their way to avoid those responses at all costs.
  8. 8. Evolutionary Theory. Charles Darwin. • Over a century ago, in the 1870s, Charles Darwin suggested that emotions evolved because they had adaptive value. For example, fear evolved because it helped people to act in ways that enhanced their chances of survival. Charles Darwin thought that facial expressions of emotion are characteristic. He pointed out that facial expressions allow people to quickly judge someone’s hostility or friendliness. This helps us to communicate the intentions to others.
  9. 9. Evolutionary theory. • Evolutionary theorists tend to downplay the influence of thought and learning on emotion, However they acknowledge that both can have an effect. Evolutionary theorists believe that all human share several crucial emotions, including happiness, contempt, surprise, disgust, anger, fear, and sadness. They believe that all other emotions result from blends and different intensities of these main emotions. For example, terror is a more intense form of the of fear.
  10. 10. The James-Lange Theory. • In the 1880s, two theorists, psychologist William James and physiologist Carl Lange, individually proposed an idea that challenged the norm of beliefs about emotion. This idea, which came to be known as the James-Lange theory, is that people experience emotion because they see their bodies’ physiological responses to external events. According to this theory, people don’t cry because they feel sad. Rather, people feel sad because they cry, and, likewise, they feel happy because they smile. This theory suggests that different physiological states relate to different experiences of emotion.
  11. 11. The Cannon-Bard Theory The physiologist Walter Cannon disagreed with the James-Lange theory, stating three main arguments against it: 1. People can experience physiological arousal without experiencing emotion, such as when someone have been running. (The racing heart in this case is not an indication of fear.) 2. Physiological reactions happen very slowly to cause experiences of emotion, which occur rapidly. For example, when someone is in a dark alley alone, a sudden sound usually provokes an immediate experience of fear, however while the physical symptoms of fear generally follow that feeling. 3. People can experience very different emotions even when they have the same pattern of physiological arousal. For example someone may be breathing heavily and have a racing heart but could be angry or afraid.
  12. 12. The Cannon-Bard Theory • Cannon states his own theory of emotion in the 1920s, which was then later extended by another physiologist, Philip Bard, in the 1930s. The resulting Cannon- Bard theory suggests that the experience of emotion happens at the same time that physiological arousal happens. The don’t causes one another. The brain gets a message that causes the experience of emotion at the same time that the nervous system gets a message that causes physiological arousal. Therefore the emotion and physiological arousal clash together and creates that certain feeling.
  13. 13. Schachter and Singer’s Two-Factor Theory • Schachter and Singer developed the two-factor theory of emotion. The two-factor theory suggests that emotion comes from a combination of a state of arousal and a cognition that makes best sense of the situation the person is in. For example, the two-factor theory of emotion argues that when people become aroused they look for cues as to why they feel the way they do. • For example psychologists now argue that peoples efforts to understand an unexplained state of arousal is more extensive than a quick examination of cues in the surrounding environment. When we seek to explain a state of arousal, we don’t merely use others’ behavior but call on many other sources of information as well, particularly our own past history - we search for prior occasions on which we felt this arousal state to explain its occurrence now.

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