Fear of animals: What is prepared?


University Department of Paediatrics, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


The present study examines one aspect of the concept of preparedness: what characteristics of animals humans are prepared to fear. Group I subjects (n = 64) rated how fearful they were of 29 small, harmless animals. Group II subjects (n = 49) made ratings of the perceptual characteristics of these same animals. Fear ratings were found to be significantly correlated with animal characteristics' ratings. It was suggested that preparedness to fear certain animals (e.g. snakes) is not a function of the animals per se but of their fear-evoking perceptual properties and their discrepancy from the human form.