Social learning of fear and safety is determined by the demonstrator's racial group

Biol Lett. 2015 Jan;11(1):20140817. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0817.


Social learning offers an efficient route through which humans and other animals learn about potential dangers in the environment. Such learning inherently relies on the transmission of social information and should imply selectivity in what to learn from whom. Here, we conducted two observational learning experiments to assess how humans learn about danger and safety from members ('demonstrators') of an other social group than their own. We show that both fear and safety learning from a racial in-group demonstrator was more potent than learning from a racial out-group demonstrator.

Keywords: fear; safety; social learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Black People
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Racial Groups / psychology*
  • Snakes
  • Social Behavior*
  • Spiders
  • Sweden
  • White People