Poster B23, Sunday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Experience sampling of emotional states induced during Pavlovian fear conditioning
Daniel Stjepanović1, Kevin S. LaBar1; 1Center for Cognitive Neuroscience & Dept of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
Pavlovian fear conditioning provides a powerful tool for the study of memory and emotion processes. While animal models and human neuroimaging have suggested an overlap in the neural representation of fear learning and fear induction, it remains unclear to which extent fear-conditioning elicits the subjective experience of fear or other emotions. In the present study, participants self-reported their emotional states intermittently while undergoing differential fear conditioning to colored shape stimuli. We found that participants were significantly more likely to endorse fear, anger and surprise states following the presentation of an aversively-reinforced CS+ stimulus, relative to a CS- stimulus that is never reinforced. We replicated and extended these results in two independent samples (total N=150), with validation of fear learning via skin conductance response. First, we implemented a reversal learning paradigm by swapping the association between the CS stimuli and the aversive shock. Results indicated that participants’ emotional state ratings tracked the identity of the stimuli, such that ratings to the new CS+ replicated our earlier results. Secondly, we implemented an instructed learning paradigm by providing participants with explicit knowledge of when CS+ stimuli would be reinforced. According to theoretical models, this should reduce surprise. As predicted, endorsement of surprise no longer differed from the unreinforced CS-, but the CS+ continued to elicit greater endorsement of fearful and angry states. Our results indicate that Pavlovian fear conditioning does elicit subjective fear in humans, though as part of a broader polyaffective state profile that varies as a function of experimental design.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions