Mindfulness and Fear Conditioning
Cognitive Science Society
During mindfulness-based interventions participants can be invited to bring aversive stimuli to mind while practicing mindfulness. This is thought to help the stimuli become less aversive. However, the mechanisms underlying this process are not fully understood. In this study we explored these by examining the effects of mindfulness practice and stimulus visualization on stimuli associated with electric shocks. Participants were trained on a discrimination between two visual stimuli using a standard electrodermal conditioning procedure, in which one stimulus (CS+) was paired with shock and the other (CS-) was not. They then visualized either the CS+ or CS-, while practicing mindfulness or performing a control activity. Following a number of extinction trials, the impact of these manipulations was assessed during a reacquisition test-phase. Both mindfulness and visualization of the CS+ led to slower reacquisition of the CS+/shock association, when measured physiologically, and their effects were additive. Moreover, these effects dissociated from participants’ expectancy of shock. If confirmed in future work, these findings may have implications for the treatment of stimulus-specific anxiety.
This research was funded by British Academy / Leverhulme Small Research Grant SG150007.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the link in this record.
CogSci 2017: 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, London, UK, 26 - 29 July 2017, pp. 3546 - 3551
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