The renewal of extinguished conditioned fear with fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant stimuli by a context change after extinction
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The acquisition, extinction, and subsequent recovery of conditioned fear can be influenced by the nature of the conditional stimulus (CS) and the context in which the CS is presented. The combined effects of these factors were examined in a differential fear-conditioning procedure with humans. Fear-relevant or fear-irrelevant CSs were followed by a shock unconditional stimulus (US) during acquisition and presented alone during extinction. The CSs were images presented upon different background contexts. Half the participants received the same context during acquisition and extinction and the remaining received different contexts. All participants received test trials in the same context as acquisition. In Experiment 1 (N=64), a renewal of shock expectancy and skin conductance responses was found during test for fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant CSs when extinction was given in a different context. In Experiment 2 (N=72), renewal for fear-relevant stimuli was enhanced when acquisition and test was given in an indoor office context and extinction in an outdoor bush context. The opposite context configuration produced the strongest renewal for fear-irrelevant stimuli. The return of extinguished conditioned fear can occur to fear-relevant stimuli that are commonly associated with clinical fears and its strength may be enhanced when the stimuli are encountered in certain contexts after extinction.
Behaviour Research and Therapy
© 2008 Elsevier. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
Psychology not elsewhere classified