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Intolerance of uncertainty, and not social anxiety, is associated with compromised extinction of social threat

Wake, S., Morriss, J., Johnstone, T., Van Reekum, C. M. ORCID: and Dodd, H. ORCID: (2021) Intolerance of uncertainty, and not social anxiety, is associated with compromised extinction of social threat. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 139. 103818. ISSN 0005-7967

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2021.103818


Extinction-resistant threat is regarded as a central hallmark of pathological anxiety. However, it remains relatively under-studied in social anxiety. Here we sought to determine whether self-reported trait social anxiety is associated with compromised threat extinction learning and retention. We tested this hypothesis within two separate, socially relevant conditioning studies. In the first experiment, a Selective Extinction Through Cognitive Evaluation (SECE) paradigm was used, which included a cognitive component during the extinction phase, while experiment 2 used a traditional threat extinction paradigm. Skin conductance responses and subjective ratings of anxiety (experiment 1 and 2) and expectancy (experiment 2) were collected across both experiments. The findings of both studies demonstrated no effect of social anxiety on extinction learning or retention. Instead, results from experiment 1 indicated that individual differences in Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU) were associated with the ability to use contextual cues to decrease a conditioned response during SECE. However, during extinction retention, high IU predicted greater generalisation across context cues. Findings of experiment 2 revealed that higher IU was associated with impaired extinction learning and retention. The results from both studies suggest that compromised threat extinction is likely to be a characteristic of high levels of IU and not social anxiety.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:96483


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