Among adults, classically conditioned fears that have been extinguished can recover through a change of physical context. Recovery of fear via a change of physical context is typically termed ‘renewal’. In this study, we investigated whether adults also exhibit renewal via the verbal threat information pathway. Fifty adult participants (M = 20 years-old; range: 18 to 45 years of age) acquired fear beliefs about a novel and fictitious animal through the provision of threatening information about the animal. Fears were reduced via the verbal provision of positive information and modelling. Participants were randomised to receive fear reduction in either the same context (Context A) or in a different context (Context B) to the context used for fear acquisition (Context A). All participants were then tested back in the context of acquisition. Results showed fears recovered when the context of fear reduction and the context of test were different, indicating physical context regulates the renewal of verbally acquired and reduced fear. The findings are discussed in terms of current theoretical and developmental models for fear extinction and the implications for relapse models of adult anxiety disorders.

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Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Newall, C. (Carol), Jacomb, I. (Isabella), Hudson, J.L. (Jennifer L.), & Broeren, S. (2015). Physical context regulates the renewal of fear in indirect pathways: An examination of fear reduction processes using verbal information provision and modelling. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 6(1), 13–27. doi:10.5127/jep.040013