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Poster A64

Mental Imagery and Fear Generalization

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Andrew Lyons1 (, McKenzie Andries1, Ryan M Ferstl1, Steven G Greening1; 1University of Manitoba

Mental imagery is believed to be a weaker form of perception, which may result in a more ambiguous, or “fuzzy”, mental impression as compared to the impression from a visual stimulus. If correct, the acquisition of fear may be less specific for imagined fears in comparison to perceptual fears. This lack of specificity could facilitate broader fear generalization. To test this idea, two groups of participants underwent differential fear conditioning (N = 100) such that a specific Gabor patch orientation (CS+) was paired with mild shock while a second Gabor patch of orthogonal orientation (CS-) was never paired with shock. Critically, one group imagined the Gabor patches during conditioning and the other group viewed the Gabor patches. Next, both groups were presented visual Gabor patches of similar orientations (GCS) to the CS+. Participants’ fear conditioning and generalization was measured via self-report and the skin conductance response (SCR). Self-report findings demonstrated successful fear conditioning toward the CS+ and CS-. Further, self-reported findings suggested that there was no difference in the broadness of fear generalization between the two groups. Corroborating these findings, SCR results also did not show a significant difference between the groups. However, differing from the self-report, SCR results appeared more consistent with the phenomenon of lateral inhibition such that the most similar stimuli to the CS+ showed an inhibited fear response. These potentially dissociable findings between the two measures will be discussed.

Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions


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April 13–16  |  2024