Chapter

Fear Extinction and Emotional Processing Theory

Seth J. Gillihan and Edna B. Foa

in Associative Learning and Conditioning Theory

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199735969
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894529 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735969.003.0017
Fear Extinction and Emotional Processing Theory

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The process of fear extinction in animal studies bears strong resemblance to the process of reduction of pathological anxiety in humans via exposure therapy. Thus, findings emerging from experiments of extinction can inform us about the mechanisms of exposure therapy, which may lead to modifying the manner in which therapists conduct exposure and thereby improve treatment outcomes. This chapter uses emotional processing theory as a framework to organize the knowledge about both exposure therapy and extinction. The chapter examines whether hypotheses and suppositions derived from the theory are consistent with knowledge emerging from extinction experiments and from treatment studies of anxiety disorders; conversely, it examines how emotional processing theory can inform the questions that extinction research needs to address. The chapter includes an examination of the neural correlates of the reduction of pathological fear, which may allow us to expand our knowledge of mechanisms of exposure therapy by adding brain processes to the existing behavioral mechanisms implicated in extinction.

Keywords: fear; extinction; anxiety; exposure; PTSD

Chapter.  10407 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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