Reducing fear overgeneralization in children using a novel perceptual discrimination task

Rivkah Ginat-Frolich, Tamar Gendler, Dan Marzan, Yuval Tsuk, Tomer Shechner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Fear generalization, while adaptive, can be detrimental when occurring in excess. To this end a perceptual discrimination training task was created with a goal of decreasing fear overgeneralization. The current study tested the effectiveness of the training task among typically-developing children. Participants (n = 73) were randomly assigned into a training, placebo or no task group. Following a differential fear-conditioning task, participants in the first two groups underwent the discrimination training or placebo task. An assessment task was then administered. Finally, all participants completed a fear generalization test, consisting of 11 morphs ranging in perceptual similarity from the threat cue to the safety cue. Physiological and self-report measures were collected. Fear-conditioning was achieved in both physiological and self-report measures. Further, in the assessment task, the training group showed better perceptual discrimination than did the placebo group. Last, the training group exhibited less overgeneralization of affective stimuli as indicated by a physiological measure than did the two control conditions. Findings suggest that the perceptual discrimination training task effectively moderated fear overgeneralization in children. This adds to previous evidence of the task's effectiveness among adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-139
Number of pages9
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume116
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Children
  • Fear conditioning
  • Fear generalization
  • Perceptual discrimination
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology

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