Blackledge, J. T. (2003). An introduction to relational frame theory: Basics and applications. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3(4), 421-433.
Can someone fact check this I feel like this is sketchy I’m like 100% sure we can teach animals to associate other objects with fear and have fear responses to them
You’re right in that it sounds sketchy. Unfortunately I don’t have much room to write on these graphics, so it’s tough to elaborate in great detail.
This is different from classical conditioning which is among the more common types of training in animal models which can lead to fear learning. In such situations, a neutral stimulus is paired with an aversive event so the neutral stimulus becomes a reminder of the aversive event (in very simplistic terms).
The graphic above does not pertain to directly training an animal to fear an event, and then showing the cue associated with the event. The above graphic is something that occurs in the absence of explicit training. Remember there is a difference between the stimulus and event here, and that’s important to note. Cuing to a feared stimulus is arguably different from cuing to a feared outcome.
Animals can be trained to report whether they have experienced a painful event (e.g., by pushing a lever; lots of cognitive psychology research on memory). They can do this with all sorts of stimuli associated with an actual pain stimulus.
But here’s the interesting part: you can train animals to do this so they press the lever signifying a painful memory/thought, but there’s no indication of actual fear. Heart rate, body temperature, breath, noise, etc. - nothing changes. Based on every biological marker of fear that we know of, animals do not show fear when imagining something frightening in the absence of immediate, absolute threat. No physiological arousal.
Animals must explicitly learn to fear something (unless it’s hereditary, perhaps) in order to fear it. It must be connected to an experienced and aversive outcome and/or it must be immediately present. There seems to be some differentiation between pain and fear as well given that they are capable of reporting pain even in the absence of fear.
Humans, on the other hand, do not have to explicitly learn/experience something to fear it, and so even arbitrary stimuli can serve as reminders of that fear. For humans, there is a greater ability to turn pain into fear even in the absence of threat. Just thinking of a needle can cause a human to have a panic attack in the absence of direct/explicit training, but that’s not the case for an animal unless they have been explicitly trained to do so.
Hopefully this makes some sense. If not, the article I cited might help. Or anything looking at relational frame theory.