ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 7, Issue 1, 143-152, 2016
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The role of stimulus specificity and attention in the generalization of extinction

Authors
  Tom Barry - Centre for Learning Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  James Griffith - Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA
  Bram Vervliet - Centre for Learning Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  Dirk Hermans - Centre for Learning Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Volume 7, Issue 1, 2016, Pages 143-152
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5127/jep.048615

Abstract
Exposure therapy for anxiety is effective but fear can still return afterward. This may be because the stimuli that people are exposed to are dissimilar from the stimuli to which fear was originally acquired.
After pairing an animal-like image (A) with a shock stimulus (US), a perceptually similar stimulus (B) was presented without the US in extinction. Participants were then shown A (ABA), a second generalization stimulus (ABC) or B (ABB).
Groups ABA and ABC evidenced a return of US expectancy relative to participants who were shown B (ABB). Participants in group ABC who self-reported high levels of attentional control evidenced greater return of expectancy relative to participants low in attentional control. Participants with a high level of attentional control also showed steeper extinction gradients.
Attentional control may influence perceptions of similarity and the learning that follows. Making note of such differences may be valuable in exposure treatment for anxiety.

Table of Contents
Introduction
Method
 Participants
 Stimuli and Measures
 Procedure
 Data Analysis
Results
 Generalization and attention
Discussion
Acknowledgements
References

Correspondence to
Tom J. Barry, Centre for Learning Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology, Psychology Faculty, University of Leuven, Tiensestraat 102 - Bus 3712, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.

Keywords
none

Dates
Received 15 Apr 2015; Revised 12 Aug 2015; Accepted 1 Sep 2015; In Press 5 Feb 2016







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