Conceptual fear generalization gradients

Gaëtan Mertens, Vera Bouwman, Arne Leer, Iris Engelhard

Research output: Working paperScientific


A hallmark symptom of fear and anxiety disorder is generalization of fear to essentially innocuous stimuli and situations. Such generalization can occur through both perceptual and conceptually similarities. Recent studies indicate that perceptual generalization is inflated in anxiety patients and individuals prone to develop anxiety disorders, suggesting that perceptual generalization may be involved in the etiology of anxiety disorders. In the current study we want to address whether conceptual generalization is potentially implicated in the development of anxiety disorders. Therefore, we will use a novel paradigm in which the Dutch word mini [tiny] or enorm [enormous] is paired with an electric shock and assess fear to the conceptually related words klein [small], medium [medium], and groot [large]. The obtained generalization gradients will be related to personality traits known to be vulnerability factors for anxiety disorders. These results will provide insight into conceptual fear generalization and whether this phenomenon potentially relates to the development of anxiety disorders.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPsyArXiv Preprints
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


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