Prepared stimuli enhance aversive learning without weakening the impact of verbal instructions

Lauren Y. Atlas, Elizabeth A. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Fear-relevant stimuli such as snakes and spiders are thought to capture attention due to evolutionary significance. Classical conditioning experiments indicate that these stimuli accelerate learning, while instructed extinction experiments suggest they may be less responsive to instructions. We manipulated stimulus type during instructed aversive reversal learning and used quantitative modeling to simultaneously test both hypotheses. Skin conductance reversed immediately upon instruction in both groups. However, fear-relevant stimuli enhanced dynamic learning, as measured by higher learning rates in participants conditioned with images of snakes and spiders. Results are consistent with findings that dissociable neural pathways underlie feedback-driven and instructed aversive learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-104
Number of pages5
JournalLearning and Memory
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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