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Psychophysiology. 2009 Sep;46(5):984-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2009.00852.x. Epub 2009 Jun 22.

An alternative scoring method for skin conductance responding in a differential fear conditioning paradigm with a long-duration conditioned stimulus.

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National Center for PTSD, Women's Health Sciences Division, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Researchers examining skin conductance (SC) as a measure of aversive conditioning commonly separate the SC response into two components when the CS-UCS interval is sufficiently long. This convention drew from early theorists who described these components, the first- and second-interval responses, as measuring orienting and conditional responses, respectively. The present report critically examines this scoring method through a literature review and a secondary data analysis of a large-scale study of police and firefighter trainees that used a differential aversive conditioning procedure (n=287). The task included habituation, acquisition, and extinction phases, with colored circles as the CSs and shocks as the UCS. Results do not support the convention of separating the SC response into first- and second-interval responses. It is recommended that SC response scores be derived from data obtained across the entire CS-UCS interval.

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