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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience