Measuring fear: Association among different measures of fear learning.J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2021 03; 70:101618.JB
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES
Fear conditioning paradigms use various measures to assess learned fear, including autonomic arousal responses like skin conductance, and self-reports of both associative (US-expectancies) and evaluative (affective ratings) learning. The present study uses a dimensional approach to examine associations among fear indices directly.
Seventy-three participants completed a differential fear conditioning experiment, during which a neutral stimulus (CS+) was paired with an electric shock (US), while another stimulus (CS-) was never paired with the shock (partially instructed fear acquisition). Ten minutes later, both stimuli were presented without any shocks (fear extinction). Skin conductance responses and US-expectancy ratings were recorded during each phase, while self-reported negative affect was assessed for each CS at the end of extinction.
Results showed a positive association among US-expectancy ratings and skin conductance responses during acquisition and early extinction. US-expectancy ratings during overall extinction were positively associated with post-extinction negative affect.
The lack of affective ratings post-acquisition may have obscured associations between associative and evaluative learning indices.
Results provide evidence for the expected correspondence among different indices of associative fear learning. Findings emphasize the need for incorporating both associative and evaluative learning measures in fear conditioning paradigms.