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No Influence of Threat Uncertainty on Fear Generalization
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  • Asimina Aslanidou,
  • Marta Andreatta,
  • Alex Wong,
  • Matthias Wieser
Asimina Aslanidou
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Marta Andreatta
Erasmus University Rotterdam
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Alex Wong
Erasmus University Rotterdam
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Matthias Wieser
Erasmus University Rotterdam
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Fear overgeneralization and perceived uncertainty about future outcomes have been suggested as risk factors for clinical anxiety. However, little is known regarding how they influence each other. In this study, we investigated whether different levels of threat uncertainty influence fear generalization. Three groups of healthy participants underwent a differential fear conditioning protocol followed by a generalization test. All groups learned to associate one female face (conditioned stimulus, CS+) with a female scream (unconditioned stimulus, US) while the other face (CS-) was not associated with the scream. In order to manipulate threat uncertainty, one group (low uncertainty, n = 26) received 80%, the second group (moderate uncertainty, n = 32) received 60%, and the third group (high uncertainty, n = 30) 40% CS-US contingency. In the generalization test, all groups saw CS+ and CS- again as well as four morphs that varied in similarity with the CS+ in steps of 20%. Subjective (expectancy, valence, and arousal ratings), psychophysiological (skin conductance response, SCR), and visuocortical (steady-state visual evoked potentials, ssVEPs) indices of fear were registered. Participants expected the US in accordance with their reinforcement schedules but displayed stronger skin conductance with more uncertainty. However, acquisition of conditioned fear was not evident in ssVEPs. During the generalization test, we found no effect of threat uncertainty in any of the measured variables, but the strength of generalization for threat expectancy ratings was positively correlated with dispositional intolerance of uncertainty. This study suggests that mere threat uncertainty does not modulate fear generalization.
13 Mar 2023Submitted to Psychophysiology
13 Mar 2023Submission Checks Completed
13 Mar 2023Assigned to Editor
13 Mar 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
24 Mar 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
21 Apr 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
12 Jul 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
12 Jul 20231st Revision Received
24 Jul 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
08 Aug 2023Editorial Decision: Accept