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UCS expectancy biases in spider phobics: underestimation of aversive consequences following fear-irrelevant stimuli
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 13:38 authored by Kate CavanaghKate Cavanagh, Graham C L Davey
This paper reports the results of two studies investigating judgements made by spider phobics about the potential threatening consequences (unconditioned stimulus, UCS, expectancies) associated with their phobic stimulus, fear-relevant (FR) stimuli, and fear-irrelevant (FI) stimuli. Using a ‘thought experiment’ UCS expectancy paradigm, the studies reported found that (1) spider phobics reported significantly higher UCS expectancies to spider stimuli than non-phobics, (2) spider phobics consistently underestimated the probability of aversive consequences following FI stimuli and (3) this underestimation of UCS expectancies to FI stimuli in phobics was not the result of a contrast effect resulting from sequential FR and FI judgements. This differential effect may have important implications for the kind of mechanism which mediates judgements about phobic consequences. These findings suggest that the dimensions on which phobic stimuli are categorised may be ‘stretched’ in the case of phobics and that this gives rise to the comparative underestimation of threat associated with FI stimuli but also makes phobics more vulnerable to acquiring other phobias.
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Department affiliated with
- Psychology Publications
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