Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Scott R. Vrana


This paper tests Reiss' (1991) expectancy theory of fearfulness. Reiss' moderation model of fears speculates that individual differences in fearfulness and phobic avoidance is a function of the interaction between trait vulnerabilities (i.e., sensitivities) and beliefs about potential outcomes during exposure to phobic stimuli (i.e., expectancies). Four hundred and forty-five undergraduates completed questionnaires related to Reiss' fundamental sensitivities (e.g., "anxiety sensitivity"), expectancies (e.g., "expectancy of physical injury or harm") and the intensity of common fears. Informed by findings concerning fear-related outcome expectancies, a system for measuring expectancies was developed for this study called the Focus of Apprehension Survey Schedule (FASS). Additionally, "disgust sensitivity" and "expectancy of contamination or illness" were included to examine whether they account for fearfulness beyond that predicted by Reiss' sensitivities and expectancies alone. In Experiment 1, hierarchical multivariate regression was employed to test Reiss' moderation model of expectancy theory for four fear subtypes (animal, blood/injection/injury (BII), claustrophobic, social). For each of these fear types, results did not support Reiss' moderation model. However, disgust sensitivity improved the prediction of animal fears and contamination expectancies improved the prediction of BII fears beyond Reiss' fundamental sensitivities and expectancies alone. In Experiment 2, a competing mediation model of expectancy theory was tested in which sensitivities were expected to indirectly influence individual differences in fearfulness through outcome expectancies. Results of path analysis using LISREL 8.54 did not support a mediation model per se. However, expectancies were found to mediate relationships between sensitivities and fears in several predicted instances (e.g., contamination expectancies mediated the disgust-BII fears relationship). The results provide some encouraging replications of prior studies and are discussed in the context of implications for theories of fear as well as for future directions in research.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons