Influence of Perceptual and Conceptual Information on Fear Generalization : A Behavioral and Event-Related Potential Study
Wang, J., E, M., Wu, Q., Xie, T., Dou, H., & Lei, Y. (2021). Influence of Perceptual and Conceptual Information on Fear Generalization : A Behavioral and Event-Related Potential Study. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 21(5), 1054-1065. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-021-00912-x
Published inCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
© 2021 The Psychonomic Society, Inc.
Learned fear can be generalized through both perceptual and conceptual information. This study investigated how perceptual and conceptual similarities influence this generalization process. Twenty-three healthy volunteers completed a fear-generalization test as brain activity was recorded in the form of event-related potentials (ERPs). Participants were exposed to a de novo fear acquisition paradigm with four categories of conditioned stimuli (CS): two conceptual cues (animals and furniture); and two perceptual cues (blue and purple shapes). Animals (C+) and purple shapes (P+) were paired with the unconditioned stimulus (US), whereas furniture (C−) and blue shapes (P−) never were. The generalized stimuli were thus blue animals (C+P+, determined danger), blue furniture (C−P+, perceptual danger), purple animals (C+P−, conceptual danger), and purple furniture (C−P−, determined safe). We found that perceptual cues elicited larger fear responses and shorter reaction times than did conceptual cues during fear acquisition. This suggests that a perceptually related pathway might evoke greater fear than a conceptually based route. During generalization, participants were more afraid of C+ exemplars than of C− exemplars. Furthermore, C+ trials elicited greater N400 amplitudes. Thus, participants appear able to use conceptually based cues to infer the value of the current stimuli. Additionally, compared with C+ exemplars, we found an enhanced late positive potential effect in response to C− exemplars, which seems to reflect a late inhibitory process and might index safety learning. These findings may offer new insights into the pathological mechanism of anxiety disorders. ...
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Additional information about fundingThis work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, Grant Numbers, 31871130), the Guangdong Key Project in “Development of new tools for diagnosis and treatment of Autism” (2018B030335001), Shenzhen Peacock Plan (KQTD2015033016104926), Shenzhen-Hong Kong Institute of Brain Science-Shenzhen Fundamental Research Institutions (2019SHIBS0003; 2021SHIBS0003).
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