Categories, concepts, and conditioning: How humans generalize fear

Joseph E. Dunsmoor, Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


During the past century, Pavlovian conditioning has served as the predominant experimental paradigm and theoretical framework to understand how humans learn to fear and avoid real or perceived dangers. Animal models for translational research offer insight into basic behavioral and neurophysiological factors mediating the acquisition, expression, inhibition, and generalization of fear. However, it is important to consider the limits of traditional animal models when applied to humans. Here, we focus on the question of how humans generalize fear. We propose that to understand fear generalization in humans requires taking into account research on higher-level cognition such as category-based induction, inferential reasoning, and representation of conceptual knowledge. Doing so will open the door for productive avenues of new research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-77
Number of pages5
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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