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    Safe From Harm: Learned, Instructed, and Symbolic Generalization Pathways of Human Threat-Avoidance

    Dymond, Simon and Schlund, Michael W. and Roche, Bryan and De Houwer, Jan and Freegard, Gary P. (2012) Safe From Harm: Learned, Instructed, and Symbolic Generalization Pathways of Human Threat-Avoidance. PLoS ONE, 7 (10). e47539. ISSN 1932-6203

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    Avoidance of threatening or unpleasant events is usually an adaptive behavioural strategy. Sometimes, however, avoidance can become chronic and lead to impaired daily functioning. Excessive threat-avoidance is a central diagnostic feature of anxiety disorders, yet little is known about whether avoidance acquired in the absence of a direct history of conditioning with a fearful event differs from directly learned avoidance. In the present study, we tested whether avoidance acquired indirectly via verbal instructions and symbolic generalization result in similar levels of avoidance behaviour and threat beliefs to avoidance acquired after direct learning. Following fear conditioning in which one conditioned stimulus was paired with shock (CS+) and another was not (CS2), participants either learned or were instructed to make a response that cancelled impending shock. Three groups were then tested with a learned CS+ and CS2 (learned group), instructed CS+ (instructed group), and generalized CS+ (derived group) presentations. Results showed similar levels of avoidance behaviour and threat-belief ratings about the likelihood of shock across each of the three pathways despite the different mechanisms by which they were acquired. Findings have implications for understanding the aetiology of clinical avoidance in anxiety.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Copyright: © Dymond et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Dymond S, Schlund MW, Roche B, De Houwer J, Freegard GP (2012) Safe From Harm: Learned, Instructed, and Symbolic Generalization Pathways of Human Threat-Avoidance. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47539. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047539
    Keywords: Learned; Instructed; Symbolic; Generalization Pathways; Human Threat-Avoidance; Anxiety disorders;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 6811
    Identification Number: Epub 2012 Oct 15.
    Depositing User: Dr. Bryan Roche
    Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 10:29
    Journal or Publication Title: PLoS ONE
    Publisher: Public Library of Science
    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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