ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 6, Issue 3, 206-229, 2015
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Development of a Protocol for Studying Premature Onset of Fear as a Feature of Pathological Fear: The Effects of Conditional Stimulus Duration and Counting Behavior

  Yannick Boddez - KU Leuven, Belgium
  Keisuke Takano - KU Leuven, Belgium
  Joke Gijbels - KU Leuven, Belgium
  Frank Baeyens - KU Leuven, Belgium
  Tom Beckers - KU Leuven, Belgium

Volume 6, Issue 3, 2015, Pages 206-229

We propose that the premature onset of fear responding is a potentially important feature of pathological fear. A behavioral protocol to study the temporal regulation of fear in humans is, however, lacking. The present study aims at developing such a protocol for healthy individuals. To this end, we investigated the effect of conditional stimulus duration (50 seconds or 90 seconds) and the effect of verbal counting during presentation of the conditional stimulus (counting or no counting) in an aversive conditioning paradigm. Results favored training conditions in which participants were asked to count for the duration of the conditional stimulus, regardless of conditional stimulus duration. Under these training conditions, we observed optimal temporal control over the onset of fear. Furthermore, it was shown that intervals followed by an aversive stimulus were retrospectively estimated to have lasted longer than those that were not followed by an aversive stimulus. We argue that the developed protocol may serve as a powerful method to study premature onset of fear responding in future studies.

Table of Contents
 Apparatus and stimuli
 Subjective fear ratings
 Time reproduction task

Correspondence to
Yannick Boddez, Department of Psychology, KU Leuven, Tiensestraat 102 box 3712, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.

Learning; Timing; Anxiety; Human Fear Conditioning

Received 16 May 2014; Revised 8 Oct 2014; Accepted 14 Jan 2015; In Press 2 Oct 2015

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