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Preparedness theory

Preparedness theory

One theory of the aetiology of anxiety disorders, particularly specific phobia is that they are an inevitable part of our biology, hard-wired into our brain through the process of evolution, a vestige of the times when seeing a tiger in the wild told the ancient man to run, and run fast.

The theory suggests that we are prepared to be afraid of things that are a danger. This can be demonstrated in an experiment where a shadow in the shape of a hawk is passed over the cage of a chick which has been isolated since hatching. The chick panics. However, it does not panic if the shape passes over backwards: ie it “knows” which way a hawk flies!

Humans, therefore, have a hole range of things that may cause fear, and we learn one way or another at what level that fear is appropriate. For example, we may have an in-bred fear of dogs due to the danger of wild dogs centuries ago, but someone raised with dogs in a secure family home is likely to push that fear down to a low level, whereas someone who has a bad experience with a dog may push the fear up the scale.

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