The Atlantic

The Neuroscientific Case for Facing Your Fears

A new study shows that mice have to remember their phobias if they are to lose them effectively.
Source: Eric Isselee / Dmitrij Skorobogatov / Shutterstock / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

Peter, aged 3, was scared of rabbits. So Mary Cover Jones kept bringing him rabbits.

At first, she’d take a caged rabbit up to Peter, while he ate some candy and played with other children. At first, Peter was terrified by the mere presence of a rabbit in the same room. But soon, he allowed the animal to get closer—12 feet, then four, then three. Eventually, Peter was happy for rabbits to nibble his fingers. “The case of Peter illustrates how a fear may be removed under laboratory conditions,” Cover Jones wrote in 1924.

Cover Jones is now recognized

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: And Then There Were 10
Tomorrow there will be ... 10 more Democratic 2020 candidates sharing a debate stage. Plus: How a home-goods company got tangled up in the migrant-detention crisis.
The Atlantic10 min readSociety
Tracing the Internal Queer Revolution
Riots and parades have made LGBTQ people visible. But a new anthology of writings from before, during, and after Stonewall shows the inward changes as more essential.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
America’s Free-Rider Problem In The Strait Of Hormuz
“The United States has not been willing to walk away from the Gulf, so other allies may not step up to do anything because they know that if they don’t, the U.S. will.”