Verbal instructions targeting valence alter negative conditional stimulus evaluations

Cognition and Emotion 32 (1):61-80 (2018)

Negative conditional stimulus valence acquired during fear conditioning may enhance fear relapse and is difficult to remove as it extinguishes slowly and does not respond to the instruction that unconditional stimulus presentations will cease. We examined whether instructions targeting CS valence would be more effective. In Experiment 1, an image of one person was paired with an aversive US, while another was presented alone. After acquisition, participants were given positive information about the CS+ poser and negative information about the CS− poser. Instructions reversed the pattern of differential CS valence present during acquisition and eliminated differential electrodermal responding. In Experiment 2, we compared positive and negative CS revaluation by providing positive/negative information about the CS+ and neutral information about CS−. After positive revaluation, differential valence was removed and differential electrodermal responding remained intact. After negative revaluation, differential valence was strengthened and differential electrodermal responding was eliminated. Unexpectedly, the instructions did not affect the reinstatement of differential electrodermal responding.
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DOI 10.1080/02699931.2017.1280449
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