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Behav Res Ther. 2010 Jul;48(7):692-7. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2010.04.001. Epub 2010 May 6.

On the costs and benefits of directing attention towards or away from threat-related stimuli: a classical conditioning experiment.

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Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


In attentional bias modification programs, individuals are trained to attend away from threat in order to reduce emotional reactivity to stressful situations. However, attending towards threat is considered to be a prerequisite for fear reduction in other models of anxiety. We compared both views by manipulating attention towards or away from an acquired signal of threat. The strength of extinction and reacquisition was assessed with threat and US-expectancy ratings. We found more extinction in the attend towards threat group, compared to both the attend away from threat group and a control group in which attention was not manipulated. The results are in line with the Emotional Processing Theory and cognitive accounts of classical conditioning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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