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eISSN: 1643-3750

Predicting fear of heights, snakes, and public speaking from multimodal classical conditioning events.

Ning Ying Wu, Anthony J. Conger, Judith A. Dygdon

Med Sci Monit 2006; 12(4): CR159-167

ID: 448901

Available online: 2006-04-10

Published: 2006-04-10

Background: Two hundred fifty one men and women participated in a studyof the prediction of fear of heights, snakes, and public speaking by providing retrospective accountsof multimodal classical conditioning events involving those stimuli. The fears selected for study representthose believed by some to be innate (i.e., heights), prepared (i.e., snakes), and purely experientiallylearned (i.e., public speaking). This study evaluated the extent to which classical conditioning experiencesin direct, observational, and verbal modes contributed to the prediction of the current level of fearseverity. Material/Methods: Subjects were asked to describe their current level of fear and to estimatetheir experience with fear response-augmenting events (first- and higher-order aversive pairings) andfear response-moderating events (first- and higher-order appetitive pairings, and pre- and post-conditioningneutral presentations) in direct, observational, and verbal modes. Results: For each stimulus, fear waspredictable from direct response-augmenting events and prediction was enhanced by the inclusion of response-moderatingevents. Furthermore, for each fear, maximum prediction was attained by the addition of variables tappingexperiences in the observational and/or verbal modes. Conclusions: Conclusions are offered regardingthe importance of including response-augmenting and response-moderating events in all three modes inboth research and clinical applications of classical conditioning.

Keywords: Adolescent, Adult, Altitude, Animals, Conditioning, Classical, Fear - psychology, Snakes, Speech