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Behav Res Ther. 2000 May;38(5):509-30.

Phobic dimensions: IV. The structure of animal fears.

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Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


Research designed to determine the number and kind of dimensions underlying self-reports of animal fears is relatively rare. To contribute further knowledge to this area of study, Davey's methodology [Davey, G. C. L. (1994a). Self-reported fears to common indigenous animals in an adult UK population: the role of disgust sensitivity. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 541-554.] was improved. Principal components analysis with Varimax rotation of the self-ratings to items of Davey's Animal Fears Questionnaire returned by Ss from a Dutch community sample (N = 214) revealed four reliable, relatively independent dimensions: (1) fear-relevant animals, (2) dry or non-slimy invertebrates, (3) slimy or wet looking animals and (4) farm animals. Replicating Davey (1994a), females, relative to males, reported higher levels on most fear items. Principal components analysis with Oblimin rotation involving animal fears scales (derived from the dimensions identified in the present study), dimensions of non-animal fears, disgust sensitivity, sex-role orientation and the major dimensions of personality from the Eysenckian system revealed 4 higher-order factors, namely specific animals fears, positive affectivity, toughmindedness and negative affectivity. At an even higher level, these 4 higher-order factors merged into two factors: (1) a bipolar positive affectivity versus neuroticism/general emotionality/negative affectivity factor and (2) a toughmindedness dimension. Studies such as these contribute in helping provide the elements of the hierarchical model of fears proposed by Taylor [Taylor, S. (1998). The hierarchic structure of fears. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36, 205-214.]. Findings across different studies suggest that there are at least 5 first-order dimensions of animal fears, the above 4 and predatory (fierce) animals, that may be included in such a model.

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