Skin conductance levels and responses in Asian and White participants during fear conditioning

Alexandra K. Gold, M. Alexandra Kredlow, Scott P. Orr, Catherine A. Hartley, Michael W. Otto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fear conditioning paradigms are frequently used in the translational study of anxiety and fear-related disorders. Accordingly, it is important to understand whether the measurement of fear conditioning responses is systematically influenced by an individual's race. Studies have found increased pain sensitivity and smaller physiological startle responses in Asian individuals, compared to White individuals; to our knowledge, no studies have evaluated whether skin conductance response (SCR) outcomes differ between Asian and White individuals. In a series of secondary data analyses, we investigated potential differences in skin conductance level (SCL), orienting SCR, unconditioned SCR, SCR to CS+ and CS-, differential SCR, and differential SCR non-responder status. In sample 1, Asian participants (n = 97) demonstrated a significantly smaller mean differential SCR compared to White participants (n = 86). No other between group differences were observed. In sample 2, there was no difference in mean differential SCR between Asian (n = 52) and White (n = 62) participants, although more Asian participants failed to show adequate skin conductance levels for study entry. To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate differences between Asian and White samples using skin conductance outcomes in a fear conditioning paradigm. We detected only subtle evidence for SCR differences between Asian and White samples, unlikely to reach significance outside large studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113802
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Acquisition
  • Fear conditioning
  • Race
  • Skin conductance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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