Date of Conferral







Brain Ragsdale


Many school-aged children fear certain animals. Fear tends to make children worry and exhibit anxious behaviors, and this can negatively affect many aspects of their lives. Rachman (1977) speculated that some children might acquire fear through receiving negative verbal information. Few studies have examined whether positive verbal information can influence children's fear beliefs about bats. Based on Rachman's Theory on the Acquisition of Fear Behaviors this experimental research study examined whether positive verbal information might relate to decreasing fears about bats. One hundred and seventy-two participants in Grades 2 through 4 completed the Fear Beliefs Questionnaire (FBQ) and the Bat Attitude Questionnaire (BAQ) and then were randomized to either a positive verbal information treatment group or a control group. Both fear and bat attitude measures were administered to 2 groups of children across 3 time intervals. During Time 1, both groups filled out the FBQ and BAQ. Group 1 then received positive verbal information while Group 2 completed a maze. During Time 2, both groups again completed the FBQ and BAQ. One day later, Group 2 received the positive verbal information, and during Time 3, both groups again completed the FBQ and BAQ. MANCOVA results revealed a difference between FBQ and BAQ scores for both groups across all times. Group 1 showed no significant difference in FBQ and BAQ scores following positive information, and Group 2 only showed a significant difference in BAQ scores. The results of this study may have implications for social change in clinical practice with children experiencing fear of animals. This experimental study suggests that psychoeducational programs and psychotherapy addressing fears in children could be enhanced with the use of positive verbal information.