Influence of perceptual cues and conceptual information on the activation and reduction of claustrophobic fear

Shiban, Youssef ; Peperkorn, Henrik M. ; Alpers, Georg W. ; Pauli, Paul ; Mühlberger, Andreas

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Document Type: Article
Year of publication: 2016
The title of a journal, publication series: Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume: 51
Page range: 19-26
Place of publication: Amsterdam [u.a.]
Publishing house: Elsevier
ISSN: 0005-7916 , 1873-7943
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Social Sciences > Klinische u. Biologische Psychologie u. Psychotherapie (Alpers 2010-)
Subject: 150 Psychology
Abstract: Background: Fear reactions in phobic patients can be activated by specific perceptual cues (C) or by conceptual fear-related information (I). An earlier study with spider phobic participants documented that perceptual stimuli are particularly potent to trigger fear responses. Because fear of spiders is activated by very circumscribed stimuli, we set out to investigate whether another phobia with more contextual fear-elicitation (i.e., a situational phobia) would yield similar patterns. Thus, we investigate the two paths of fear activation (cues vs. information) and fear reduction during exposure in claustrophobic patients. Method: Forty-eight claustrophobic patients and 48 healthy control participants were randomly assigned to one of three virtual reality exposure conditions: C, I, or a combination of both (CI). Exposure lasted 5 min and was repeated 4 times. Self-report and physiological reactions were assessed. Results: Claustrophobic patients experienced more initial self-reported fear when confronted with fear-relevant perceptual cues than conceptual information, when the perceptual cues were combined with conceptual information there was no significant enhancement. Furthermore, fear habituated more in the perceptual condition. For the physiological parameters, groups differed and in claustrophobic patients heart rate decreased differently in the conditions. Limitations: Longer exposure duration and long-term effects of the manipulation were not investigated. Conclusion: We found similar patterns in a situational phobia as compared to a specific-cue related phobia (animal type). Thus, once more this highlights the central role of visual cues in phobic fear and the potential of virtual reality for conducting exposure therapy.

Dieser Eintrag ist Teil der Universitätsbibliographie.

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