The relevance of recent developments in classical conditioning to understanding the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders

Susan Mineka*, Katherine Oehlberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

267 Scopus citations

Abstract

Current etiological models of anxiety disorders emphasize both internal diatheses, or risk factors, and external stressors as important in the development and maintenance of clinical anxiety. Although considerable evidence suggests personality, genetic, and environmental variables are important to these diathesis-stress interactions, this general approach could be greatly enriched by incorporating recent developments in experimental research on fear and anxiety learning. In this article, we attempt to integrate the experimental literature on fear/anxiety learning and the psychopathology literature on clinical anxiety, identify areas of inconsistency, and recommend directions for future research. First, we provide an overview of contemporary models of anxiety disorders involving fear/anxiety learning. Next, we review the literature on individual differences in associative learning among anxious and non-anxious individuals. We also examine additional possible sources of individual differences in the learning of both fear and anxiety, and indicate where possible parallels may be drawn. Finally, we discuss recent developments in basic experimental research on fear conditioning and anxiety, with particular attention to research on contextual learning, and indicate the relevance of these findings to anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-580
Number of pages14
JournalActa Psychologica
Volume127
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008

Keywords

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Anxiety learning
  • Classical conditioning
  • Contextual learning
  • Diathesis-stress models
  • Fear learning
  • Individual differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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