Preparedness (learning)

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In psychology, preparedness is a concept developed by Martin Seligman (1971) to explain why certain associations are learned more readily than others. For example, phobias related to survival, such as snakes, spiders, and heights, are much more common and much easier to induce in the laboratory than other kinds of fears. According to Seligman, this is result of our evolutionary history. The theory states that organisms which learned to fear environmental threats faster had a survival and reproductive advantage. Consequently, the innate predisposition to fear these objects became an adaptive human trait (Ohman & Mineka, 2001).

The concept of preparedness has also been used to explain why taste aversions are learned so quickly and efficiently compared to other kinds of classical conditioning.


  • Ohman, A. & Mineka, S. (2001). Fears, phobias, and preparedness. Toward an evolved model of fear and fear learning. Psychological Review, 108, 483-522.
  • Seligman, M. E. P. (1971). Phobias and preparedness. Behavior Therapy, 2, 307-321.

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