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01-10-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2021 Open Access

Cognitive Therapy and Research 1/2021

Brief Training to Modify the Breadth of Attention Influences the Generalisation of Fear

Tijdschrift:
Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 1/2021
Auteurs:
Mohith M. Varma, Riddhi J. Pitliya, Tomislav D. Zbozinek, Tomer Shechner, Tom J. Barry
Belangrijke opmerkingen
Mohith M. Varma, and Riddhi J. Pitliya are co-first authors and contributed equally to this work

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Abstract

Background

Generalisation of fear from dangerous to safe stimuli is an important process associated with anxiety disorders. However, factors that contribute towards fear (over)-generalisation remain poorly understood. The present investigation explored how attentional breadth (global/holistic and local/analytic) influences fear generalisation and, whether people trained to attend in a global vs. local manner show more or less generalisation.

Methods

Participants (N = 39) were shown stimuli which comprised of large ‘global’ letters and smaller ‘local’ letters (e.g. an F comprised of As) and they either had to identify the global or local letter. Participants were then conditioned to fear a face by pairing it with an aversive scream (75% reinforcement schedule). Perceptually similar, but safe, faces, were then shown. Self-reported fear levels and skin conductance responses were measured.

Results

Compared to participants in Global group, participants in Local group demonstrated greater fear for dangerous stimulus (CS +) as well as perceptually similar safe stimuli.

Conclusions

Participants trained to attend to stimuli in a local/analytical manner showed higher magnitude of fear acquisition and generalisation than participants trained to attend in a global/holistic way. Breadth of attentional focus can influence overall fear levels and fear generalisation and this can be manipulated via attentional training.

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