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J Consult Clin Psychol. 1999 Aug;67(4):599-604.

The effects of changing contexts on return of fear following exposure therapy for spider fear.

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Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


Treatment of specific fears and phobias is sometimes followed by a return of fear. Work with rats has provided evidence that a greater return of fear occurs when a conditioned stimulus extinguished in 1 context is later presented in a different context than if presented in the same context in which it was originally extinguished. In the present study, 36 human participants who were highly afraid of spiders received 1 session of exposure therapy (with participant modeling) and were then tested for return of fear 1 week later in either the same or a different context. It was hypothesized that there would be a greater return of fear in those participants treated and followed up in different contexts than in those treated and followed up in the same context. Participants tested in a novel context at follow-up showed a greater return of fear than participants tested in the same context. Limitations and areas for future study are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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