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Title: Generalization of Human Fear Acquisition and Extinction within a Novel Arbitrary Stimulus Category
Authors: Vervoort, Ellen ×
Vervliet, Bram
Bennett, Marc Patrick
Baeyens, Frank #
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Public Library of Sciene
Series Title: PLoS One vol:9 issue:5 pages:e96569
Article number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096569
Abstract: Adaptive anxiety relies on a balance between the generalization of fear acquisition and fear extinction. Research on fear (extinction) generalization has focused mostly on perceptual similarity, thereby ignoring the importance of conceptual stimulus relations in humans. The present study used a laboratory procedure to create de novo conceptual categories of arbitrary stimuli and investigated fear and extinction generalization among these stimuli. A matching-to-sample task produced two four-member categories of abstract figures. Next, a member from one category was coupled with an aversive electrical stimulation, while a member from the other category was presented alone. As expected, conditioned fear responses generalized to the other members of the first category (skin conductance and online shock-expectancy). Subsequent extinction of the conditioned member also generalized to the other members. However, extinguishing a non-conditioned member failed to reduce fear of the conditioned member itself. We conclude that fears generalize readily across conceptually related stimuli, but that the degree of extinction generalization depends on the stimulus subjected to extinction.
URI: 
ISSN: 1932-6203
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Centre for Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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