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Heightened fearfulness in infants is not adaptive

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2023

Marissa Ogren
Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07103, USA;;
Lisa Feldman Barrett
Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA
Katie Hoemann
Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
Vanessa LoBue
Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07103, USA;;


Grossmann proposes the “fearful ape hypothesis,” suggesting that heightened fearfulness in early life is evolutionarily adaptive. We question this claim with evidence that (1) perceived fearfulness in children is associated with negative, not positive long-term outcomes; (2) caregivers are responsive to all affective behaviors, not just those perceived as fearful; and (3) caregiver responsiveness serves to reduce perceived fearfulness.

Open Peer Commentary
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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