Previous research showed that instructions about CS-US pairings can lead to fear of the CS even when the pairings are never presented. In the present study, we examined whether the experience of CS-US pairings adds to the effect of instructions by comparing instructed conditioning with and without actual CS-US pairings in a within-subject design. Thirty-two participants saw three fractals as CSs (CS+1, CS+2, CS-) and received electric shocks as USs. Before the start of a so-called training phase, participants were instructed that both CS+1 and CS+2 would be followed by the US, but only CS+1 was actually paired with the US. The absence of the US after CS+2 was explained in such a way that participants would not doubt the instructions about the CS+2-US relation. After the training phase, a test phase was carried out. In this phase, participants expected the US after both CS+s but none of the CS +s was actually paired with the US. During test, self-reported fear was initially higher for CS+1 than for CS+2, which indicates that the experience of actual CS-US pairings adds to instructions about these pairings. On the other hand, the CS+s elicited similar skin conductance responses and US expectancies. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.,
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Raes, A. K., Houwer, J., De Schryver, M., Brass, M., & Kalisch, R. (2014). Do CS-US pairings actually matter? A within-subject comparison of instructed fear conditioning with and without actual CS-US pairings. PLoS ONE, 9(1). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084888