Monday, October 15, 2012

In a 1991 study of Canadians in Metro Toronto ages 50 or over, fear of public speaking ranked 16th for women and more than 9th for men

In 1991 there was an article by Andree Liddell, David Locker, and David Burman published in Behavior Research and Therapy magazine about Self-Reported Fears (FSS-II) of Subjects Aged 50 Years and Older. You can read an abstract here.

There were 512 adults from the Metropolitan Toronto area (300 females and 212 males) with ages ranging from 50 to 89 with a mean of 63. They took the 51-item Fear Survey Schedule II, in which they were asked to rank the intensity level for each fear on a scale from 1 to 7 where:

1 = None
2 = Very Little
3 = A Little
4 = Some
5 = Much
6 = Very Much
7 = Terror

Table 2 of the article listed all items for which the mean rating was above the middle of the scale (4 = Some). The FSS-II was given as a control to help separate effects of general fearfulness from dental anxiety. 

Two bar charts shown above list the mean scores for females and males. For both sexes death of a loved one was the top fear, followed by illness or injury to loved ones. For females fear of speaking before a group ranked 16th (at 4.05). For males fear of speaking before a group was below 4.00, so it ranked more than 9th. 

These seasoned citizens clearly weren’t following Toronto speaking coach George Torok’s more recent claim that:

"The greatest fear is to speak in public. The second greatest fear is to die."

On October 12th I discussed a 1999 survey of older adults in West Virginia that had ranked speaking before a group similarly as twelfth. It used a scale adapted for older adults called the FSS-OA. The two surveys agreed in not ranking public speaking near the top of lists of fears.

An image of the Union Station Bus Terminal and CN Tower came from Wikimedia Commons.

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