Facing fear-provoking stimuli: The role of courage and influence of task-importance

Meenakshi Chockalingam, Peter J. Norton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Courage research is emerging, although there is little empirical literature on task-importance, and morality or nobility within courage. This experimental study assessed courage, persistence despite fear, in the relationship between anxiety, behavioral approach and task-importance. Twenty-eight participants with elevated spider fear were randomly assigned to high or low importance conditions. Participants undertook a behavioral approach test where they moved their hand alongside a ruler to as close as they felt comfortable to a non-living spider display. In partial support of the first hypothesis, courage scores predicted behavioral approach distance above-and-beyond spider fear when task-importance was not experimentally augmented. Supporting the second hypothesis, experimentally induced task-importance significantly moderated the relationship between courage and behavioral approach distance such that high importance participants moved closer to the spiders at all levels of courage. This study provides foundational evidence that 1) self-report measures can predict behavioral courage above-and-beyond fear 2) perceived task-importance influences behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-613
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Positive Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • anxiety
  • behavioral approach
  • behavioral measure
  • Courage
  • task importance

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