Reducing avoidance in adults with high spider fear using perceptual discrimination training

Rivkah Ginat-Frolich, Zohar Klein, Idan M. Aderka, Tomer Shechner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Fear overgeneralization is a central feature of anxiety disorders and can lead to excessive avoidance. As perceptual discrimination is a key component of fear overgeneralization, a perceptual discrimination training task was created aimed at improving perceptual discrimination and reducing fear overgeneralization. Methods: Participants with high spider fear were randomized into training or placebo conditions. After completing their assigned task, perceptual discrimination was tested. Thereafter, participants completed a behavioral avoidance test, consisting of five stimuli ranging from a paper spider to a live tarantula. Last, participants completed a threat/safety discrimination task using schematic morphs ranging from a flower to a spider, while self-report and skin conductance responses were collected. Results: The training group showed better perceptual discrimination during the test than did the placebo group. Furthermore, as stimuli became increasingly similar to a live spider, participants in the training group exhibited decreased avoidance behavior. Finally, participants in the training group indicated that schematic morphs were less similar to a spider and showed less physiological arousal than did the placebo group. Conclusions: Together, these results attest to the possible clinical relevance of the perceptual discrimination training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-865
Number of pages7
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Volume36
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords

  • discrimination learning
  • fear
  • generalization
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology

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