Conceptual similarity promotes generalization of higher order fear learning.
We tested the hypothesis that conceptual similarity promotes generalization of conditioned fear. Using a sensory preconditioning procedure, three groups of subjects learned an association between two cues that were conceptually similar, unrelated, or mismatched. Next, one of the cues was paired with a shock. The other cue was then reintroduced to test for fear generalization, as measured by the skin conductance response. Results showed enhanced fear generalization that correlated with trait anxiety levels in the group that learned an association between conceptually similar stimuli. These findings suggest that conceptual representations of conditional stimuli influence human fear learning processes.
Dunsmoor, JE; White, AJ; LaBar, KS
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