Evaluative conditioning of fear and disgust in blood-injection-injury phobia: specificity and impact of individual differences in disgust sensitivity.J Anxiety Disord. 2009 Mar; 23(2):153-9.JA
The present study examines whether the repeated pairing of neutral facial expressions with phobic-relevant stimuli differentially influences evaluative ratings of fear and disgust between analogue blood-injection-injury (BII) phobic (n=40) and non-phobic (n=40) participants. Consistent with prior research, BII phobics reported greater disgust sensitivity than non-phobic participants even after controlling for between group differences in anxiety symptoms. Results from the evaluative conditioning experiment indicated that pre- to posttest increases in fear ratings were only marginally greater for phobic compared to non-phobic participants. However, increases in disgust from pre- to posttest were greater for phobic compared to non-phobic participants and greater for neutral expressions that were paired with threat-relevant stimuli compared to stimuli not paired with threat-relevant stimuli. Subsequent analysis also indicated that pre- to posttest increases in disgust ratings of neutral expressions that were paired with threat-relevant stimuli was moderated by disgust sensitivity levels among phobic and non-phobic participants. Heightened fear and disgust ratings were subsequently reduced by an extinction procedure. Implications of present findings in understanding the role of fear and disgust in BII phobia are discussed.