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Innate fear

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Institute, May 9, 2007.

  1. Institute

    Institute 2+ Year Member

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    Apr 14, 2007
    I've usually come across those that say fear is innate rather than learned. With this, the most common example I've heard nature representatives use is that of our fear of snakes when we're very young. Well, here's a video (that even makes my stomach turn) of a little kid and a cobra...
    Perhaps this might be the outlier, but then again, this kid has no fear.

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=d3b_1178524471

    If this is in the wrong subforum, feel free to move it, but please do not lock it.
     
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  3. alwaysaangel

    alwaysaangel 5+ Year Member

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    The snake is obviously defanged leaving it harmless.

    Fear is NOT innate. That has been established by developmental psychology. Read a visual cliff study - heres the gist of how children determine if something is worth being afraid of: http://www.talaris.org/spotlight_mommy.htm

    Children learn to be afraid of things or freak out about things because their parents do. I've seen little kids get bloody noses and think nothing of it for 5 min until their parents came out saw and started freaking - then the kid starts screaming and is in agony. Same with falling down. If a toddler falls down hard and you smile or giggle at it they will probably giggle too, get up and keep going. Whereas if you freak out and start acting all panicked the toddler will cry.

    Fear and panic are learned behaviors. The parents were giggling and encouraging the baby so he continued his pursuit of the cobra. (pretty retarded of the parents in case the kid every comes across a defanged cobra), but still it was a perfectly natural response by the child.
     
  4. blargh

    blargh Banned Banned

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    yeah, i saw a little kid walk right into a table. he rammed his head against it really hard, thought nothing of it and walked away, and then got scared once his parents started freaking out.
     
  5. alwaysaangel

    alwaysaangel 5+ Year Member

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    Yup, its nature. Its how they learn. I personally think its pretty cool. It also makes life easier when taking care of kids - don't want them to cry? Just don't give them anything to cry about! ;)
     
  6. Green Pirate

    Green Pirate Neurotic Neuro Enthusiast 5+ Year Member

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    Nov 13, 2006
    I don't think you can say that fear is completely learned--that makes very little sense evolutionarily. I think some of our fears are inherent. It could be possible that a baby doesn't have the capacity to be afraid of spiders or snakes or whatever until he reaches a certain age since that part of the brain may not be developed yet.
     
  7. CATallergy

    CATallergy 2+ Year Member

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    Jan 23, 2007
    if fear is completely learned, then I'm really curious as to what a vacuum cleaner must have done to my dog while he was a puppy.
     
  8. alwaysaangel

    alwaysaangel 5+ Year Member

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    He probably learned to be afraid of loud noises.

    But yes, not all fear is learned. I shouldn't have said that - some of it must be innate. But there is a lot of evidence that a lot of fear IN HUMANS is learned based on responses of your parents. Which is that contrary to evolution considering it was a long time ago that homo sapiens started taking care of their young for long periods of time after birth.
     
  9. emaj1n

    emaj1n M1 2+ Year Member

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    Oct 16, 2006
    The visual cliff study does not prove fear is innate. There have been plenty of rebuttals on this.

    Sometimes bloody noses don't hurt. And what about children who don't know what blood is?

    Fear can definitely be learned. But to say fear has absolutely no biological components is to ignore the other half of what we know about developmental psychology.
     
  10. sgglaze

    sgglaze New Member 5+ Year Member

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    I don't see how this is contrary to evolution. Many other animals rear their young several years before they reach adulthood, including our primate ancestors. How is it that a juvenile's adaptive trait of learning what to fear from one's parents runs contrary to evolution?

    On a side note, fear of heights seems to be one of those innate, rather than learned, fears. Discovery channel ftw.
     
  11. alwaysaangel

    alwaysaangel 5+ Year Member

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    That was supposed to say WHY is that contrary to evolution. Someone above said that learning fear didn't make sense in evolutionary terms, and i was responding.
     
  12. gary5

    gary5 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    Fear is an emotion related to survival. It is a higher level thought process. Most animals have it. Plants do not. Essentially, if there is another animal in your environment who might want to eat you (or kill you), you learn to fear that animal at a young age. Animals that fail to develop fear tend to go extinct, or they have no competitors / predators, which is rare.

    If you've ever shadowed a pediatrician, you'll find that some kids always cry bloody murder when anyone but their parent comes near them. It's a survival behavior.

    What specific things we learn to fear varies by individual and by species. There is no correct answer about how much or how little to fear. People with many fears have "safe" lives and probably live longer. People with few fears tend to die young, e.g. mountain climbers, sky divers, bungee jumpers.
     
  13. Green Pirate

    Green Pirate Neurotic Neuro Enthusiast 5+ Year Member

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    fear of bugs is also evolutionary (of course its expression varies from individual to individual). homo sapiens that tended to feel anxiety when they saw crawling things on the ground tended to avoid poisonous critters better than those who felt like picking up the crawling things and playing with them. Thinking about it logically, it would be hard to rationalize this as a "learned" fear, given we're much more likely to be killed by a bus nowadays than we are by a spider. Yet, I've never met anyone who shrieks at the sight of a bus.

    in any case, I definitely KNOW that my fear of bugs has a genetic basis--nothing else gets my sympathetic nervous system activated with such power and efficiency. As soon as I hear the slightest buzz in my room, I TOTALLY FLIP OUT. it's a wild scene man.
     
  14. kdburton

    kdburton Ulnar Deviant 5+ Year Member

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    Fear is an innate reaction, but you have to learn what to be afraid of (some things will scare people without learning such as loud noises, etc). Some cultures may be afraid of things that others embrace. If you're a little kid and you see other people freaking out about something then you'll probably be scared of it. If everyone is hanging out around a cobra like its no big deal then you probably won't be scared of it.
     
  15. lina123321

    lina123321 ralph: im a unitard 5+ Year Member

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    Jun 20, 2006
    over the rainbow
    nature vs. nurture....
     
  16. lilnoelle

    lilnoelle Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

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    I think there is a differential in personality though. Some kids are just more sensitive than others. (And it can't be only due to the differences in parenting because it is common to see a difference among siblings).

    While the child not being afraid of the cobra doesn't surprise me, I am surprised that the child didn't react to the hissing and the attacking of the cobra. Those things (as far as I'm concerned) should have been innately frightening.

    A new infant is afraid of loud noises. A toddler will likely be afraid of a big dog, especially one that is growling at her. My son, while he loves his puppy, starts freaking out if that puppy jumps up on him (especially if its first thing in the morning).

    I'd say some of these fears are innate (loud noises, or if a person feels threatened) where some are learned (my puppy jumps up on me and I fall down and hurt myself).

    From what I know with my own experience with my children is that children definitely react to their parents responses, but usually only when the assault is minor. If my daughter trips and no one is watching, she'll probably get up as if it didn't happen. If she hurts herself to the point of needing stitches, you better no that she's gonna scream to high heaven and no matter of parental consoling will help for a period of time relative to the injury.

    Same goes for scary experiences. One that I can think of is unexpectedly falling backwards (having a chair fall down or falling while standing on the couch, etc) I don't know how to explain it, but I just know that such fear is innate. You can see it in her eyes as she's falling and how she screams afterwards. Little fears can probably be glossed over and then perhaps forgotten, bigger fears - I really don't think parents have any control over this.

    I.e. my nephew is scared to death of dogs. I have a little sh!tzu puppy (SDN's automatic editing function cracks me up), and this 5 year old boy (stocky for his age) is brought to tears by even seeing that dog unleashed. If the dog is in the room (even in a cage), you can just see the angst and uncertainty in everything this kid does.
    His parents have never owned a dog. His babysitter doesn't own a dog. As far as everyone can tell (and they've tried to figure it out) this kid has never had a negative experience with dogs. Its very odd because one would think a fear of dogs would be a learned fears, but there is just no evidence of this in this kids case.
     

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