Exposure treatment in multiple contexts attenuates return of fear via renewal in high spider fearful individuals
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Background and objectives: Research has demonstrated that after exposure treatment, re-exposure to a previously feared stimulus outside of the treatment context can result in renewal of fear. The current study investigated whether conducting exposure treatment in multiple real-life contexts can attenuate renewal of fear. Methods: Forty-six moderate to high spider fearful individuals were randomly allocated to groups that received exposure treatment in either one context or three contexts. Follow-up testing was conducted one week and four weeks after exposure in the treatment context or a novel context. Results: Renewal of fear was found for the single extinction context group when exposed to the feared object in a novel context with self-report of fear, heart rate, and behavioural avoidance. However, renewal of fear was attenuated for the multiple extinction context group. Limitations: The sample included moderate to high spider fearful participants rather than clients with spider phobia, potentially limiting the generalisability of the findings to clinical populations. Conclusions: Using multiple extinction contexts in combination with other methods of attenuating renewal (e.g., context similarity) may provide a means to reduce the risk of renewal of fear.
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
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Psychology not elsewhere classified