ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 8, Issue 4, 390-412, 2017
Abstract  E-mail Abstract   Article Purchase as PDF 
Return to Issue List 
Can threat information bias fear learning? Some tentative results and methodological considerations

  Gaëtan Mertens - Ghent University
  Jan De Houwer - Ghent University

Volume 8, Issue 4, 2017, Pages 390-412


Whereas it is widely recognized that both verbal threat information and stimulus pairings can install strong and persistent fear, few studies have addressed the interaction between these two pathways of fear. According to the expectancy bias of Davey (1992, 1997), verbal information can install expectancy biases for aversive events that can result in facilitated fear learning through stimulus pairings and can delay extinction of fear. However, these predictions of the expectancy bias account have not been explored fully. Following up on two earlier studies (Field & Storksen-Coulson, 2007; Ugland, Dyson, & Field, 2013), we investigated the impact of prior threat information on fear acquisition, extinction and reinstatement. To this aim, 77 participants received instructions about four unfamiliar animals, two of which that were described as dangerous whereas the other two were described as harmless. One animal of each pair was subsequently paired with an electrical stimulus according to either a continuous or a partial reinforcement schedule. Our results indicated that threat information resulted in stronger fear responses prior to fear conditioning and in delayed extinction of fear, especially in the partial reinforcement condition. We argue that these results are in line with the expectancy bias model.

Table of Contents
 Conditioned Stimuli
 Unconditioned Stimulus
 Fear Potentiated Startle (FPS)
 Work-up Procedure
 Threat Instructions and Test
 Acquisition, Extinction and Reinstatement Phase.
 Fear and Believability Ratings.
Data Reduction and Analysis
Believ ability of The Information and Familiarity with the Animals
 Fear Ratings
 US expectancy ratings
  Acquisition phase.
  Extinction phase.
  Acquisition phase.
  Extinction phase.
  Acquisition phase.
  Extinction phase.
 English Translation of the Dutch Threat Information:
 Supplementary Material

Correspondence to
dr. Gaëtan Mertens

Instructions; Bias; Threat; Fear Conditioning; Extinction; Reinstatement; Expectancies; Startle Response; Skin Conductance Response

Received 29 Oct 2016; Revised 13 Jul 2017; Accepted 13 Jul 2017; In Press 22 Jul 2017

Bookmark and Share

Related articles by AUTHORS
None Found

Related articles by KEYWORDS
None Found

© Copyright 2009-2016 Textrum Ltd . All rights reserved. Published in the UK. - Contact Us Advertise | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use