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Unlearning of vicariously acquired fear responses via counter-conditioning but not direct extinction

Reynolds, G and Askew, C (2014) Unlearning of vicariously acquired fear responses via counter-conditioning but not direct extinction In: 44th Congress of the European Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies, 2014-09-10 - 2014-09-13, Den Haag, Netherlands.

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Counter-conditioning occurs when a learned response is altered in a second, contradictory, learning episode. Recent findings have shown that fear-related cognitions and behaviour acquired via verbal threat information can be reversed using a positive vicarious learning procedure, but it is not yet known whether vicariously acquired fear cognitions can also be 'unlearnt' using vicarious learning. The current study therefore aimed to explore whether vicariously acquired fear cognitions, behavioural preferences, physiological responses and attentional biases towards threat could be reversed using positive vicarious learning (counter-conditioning) or direct extinction. Children received vicarious learning for two novel animals, whereby one animal was paired with 10 faces expressing fear (scared-paired) and the other animal was presented alone (unpaired). For the counter-conditioning group, children then saw the same scared-paired animal but this time it was presented with happy faces. For the extinction group, children then saw the scared-paired animal alone on the screen 10 times. For the control group, children had only the vicarious learning followed by an unrelated task. Results showed that counter-conditioning resulted in a reversal of fear-related behavioral avoidance preferences, and prevention of increases in fear-related physiological responses and attentional bias. On the other hand, extinction failed to have a remedial effect. Clinical implications for the potential 'unlearning' of vicariously acquired fear are discussed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Conference Paper)
Subjects : Psychology
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Reynolds, G
Askew, C
Date : 12 September 2014
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 Nov 2016 13:55
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:56

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