In fear conditioning, extinction targets harm expectancy as well as the fear response, but it often fails to eradicate the negative affective value that is associated with the conditioned stimulus. In the present study, we examined whether counterconditioning can serve to reduce evaluative responses within fear conditioning. The sample consisted of 70 nonselected students, 12 of whom were men. All participants received acquisition with human face stimuli as the conditioned stimuli and an unpleasant white noise as the unconditioned stimulus. After acquisition, one third of the sample was allocated to an extinction procedure. The other participants received counterconditioning with either a neutral stimulus (neutral tone) or a positive stimulus (baby laugh). Results showed that counterconditioning (with both neutral and positive stimuli), in contrast to extinction, successfully reduced evaluative responses. This effect was found on an indirect measure (affective priming task), but not on self-report. Counterconditioning with a positive stimulus also tended to enhance the reduction of conditioned skin conductance reactivity. The present data suggest that counterconditioning procedures might be a promising approach in diminishing evaluative learning and even expectancy learning in the context of fear conditioning.

, , , ,,,
Behavior Therapy
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Raes, A.K, & de Raedt, R. (2012). The Effect of Counterconditioning on Evaluative Responses and Harm Expectancy in a Fear Conditioning Paradigm . Behavior Therapy, 43(4), 757–767. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2012.03.012,