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    Learned, instructed and observed pathways to fear and avoidance

    Cameron, Gemma and Roche, Bryan and Schlund, Michael W. and Dymond, Simon (2015) Learned, instructed and observed pathways to fear and avoidance. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 50. pp. 106-112. ISSN 0005-7916

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    Background and objectives Conditioned fear may emerge in the absence of directly experienced conditioned stimulus (CS) - unconditioned stimulus (US) pairings. Here, we compared three pathways by which avoidance of the US may be acquired both directly (i.e., through trial-and-error instrumental learning) and indirectly (i.e., via verbal instructions and social observation). Methods Following fear conditioning in which CS+ was paired with shock and CS- was unpaired, three separate groups of participants learned by direct experience (Instrumental-learning), were instructed about (Instructed-learning), or observed (Observational-learning) a demonstrator performing an avoidance response that canceled upcoming US (shock) presentations. Groups were then tested in extinction with presentations of the directly experienced CS+ and CS-, and either a novel CS (Instrumental and observational groups) or an instructed CS (instructed-group). Results Similar to instrumental learning, results demonstrate that avoidance may be acquired via instructions and social observation in the absence of directly learning that an avoidance response prevents the US. Retrospective US expectancy ratings were modulated by the assumed presence or absence of avoidance. Overall, these findings suggest that instrumental-, instructed-, and observational-learning pathways to avoidance in humans are similar. Limitations Alternative experimental designs would permit direct comparison between the pathways for stimuli with no prior experience of fear conditioning, and trial-by-trial US expectancy ratings would help track the modulation of fear by avoidance pathway. Conclusions Instrumental-, instructed-, and observational-learning pathways of avoidance are similar. Findings may have implications for understanding the etiology of clinical avoidance in anxiety.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Cite as: Cameron, G., Roche, B., Schlund, M. W., & Dymond, S. (2016). Learned, instructed and observed pathways to fear and avoidance. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 50, 106-112.
    Keywords: Avoidance; Fear; Instructions; Observation;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 10635
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Dr. Bryan Roche
    Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2019 17:02
    Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
    Publisher: Elsevier
    Refereed: Yes
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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