Generalization of beneficial exposure effects to untreated stimuli from another fear category

  • Previous research has shown that fear associated with one stimulus often spreads to other stimuli with similar perceptual features as well as across different stimulus categories. Exposure is considered as the most effective intervention to attenuate exaggerated fear. The extent to which exposure treatment effects can generalize to fears not targeted during treatment remains elusive. Previous studies on possible generalization of beneficial effects of exposure used stimuli sharing the same stimulus category and/or stimuli having high perceptual similarity. The current study examined whether exposure treatment generalization can be achieved for untreated stimuli which do not share any perceptual resemblance and belong to a different fear category. An analogue sample of fifty participants with fear of spiders (animal-related fears) and heights (natural environment-related fears) was tested. Participants have been randomly assigned to either an exposure treatment (\(\it n\) = 24) or a control condition ((\(\it n\) = 26). Exposure treatment was designed to only target participants’ fear of spiders, leaving their fear of heights untreated. Results demonstrated that the effects of exposure treatment generalized to fear of heights, as indicated by a reduction in behavioral avoidance, as well as self-reported acrophobia symptoms. The present study confutes the assumption that generalization of exposure effects to untreated fears is based on perceptual similarity. Clearly, further research is required to determine the decisive factors, in order to expand the generalization effect permanently to any given type of fear.

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Author:Iris KodzagaORCiDGND, Ekrem DereORCiDGND, Armin ZlomuzicaORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Translational psychiatry
Publisher:Springer Nature
Place of publication:Berlin
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2024/04/12
Date of first Publication:2023/12/19
Publishing Institution:Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsbibliothek
Tag:Open Access Fonds
Issue:Artikel 401
First Page:401-1
Last Page:401-8
Article Processing Charge funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
Institutes/Facilities:Lehrstuhl Behavioral and clinical neuroscience
Dewey Decimal Classification:Philosophie und Psychologie / Psychologie
open_access (DINI-Set):open_access
faculties:Fakultät für Psychologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY 4.0 - Namensnennung 4.0 International