Learning to fear what others have feared before.

Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 1190 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027, USA.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 5.04). 03/2007; 2(1):1-2. DOI:10.1093/scan/nsm007
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: This study compared fear learning acquired through direct experience (Pavlovian conditioning) and fear learning acquired without direct experience via either observation or verbal instruction. We examined whether these three types of learning yielded differential responses to conditioned stimuli (CS+) that were presented unmasked (available to explicit awareness) or masked (not available to explicit awareness). In the Pavlovian group, the CS+ was paired with a mild shock, whereas the observational-learning group learned through observing the emotional expression of a confederate receiving shocks paired with the CS+. The instructed-learning group was told that the CS+ predicted a shock. The three groups demonstrated similar levels of learning as measured by the skin conductance response to unmasked stimuli. As in previous studies, participants also displayed a significant learning response to masked stimuli following Pavlovian conditioning. However, whereas the observational-learning group also showed this effect, the instructed-learning group did not.
    Psychological Science 01/2005; 15(12):822-8. · 4.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The field of neuroscience has, after a long period of looking the other way, again embraced emotion as an important research area. Much of the progress has come from studies of fear, and especially fear conditioning. This work has pinpointed the amygdala as an important component of the system involved in the acquisition, storage, and expression of fear memory and has elucidated in detail how stimuli enter, travel through, and exit the amygdala. Some progress has also been made in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie fear conditioning, and recent studies have also shown that the findings from experimental animals apply to the human brain. It is important to remember why this work on emotion succeeded where past efforts failed. It focused on a psychologically well-defined aspect of emotion, avoided vague and poorly defined concepts such as "affect," "hedonic tone," or "emotional feelings," and used a simple and straightforward experimental approach. With so much research being done in this area today, it is important that the mistakes of the past not be made again. It is also time to expand from this foundation into broader aspects of mind and behavior.
    Annual Review of Neuroscience 02/2000; 23:155-84. · 20.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Our ability to explain and predict other people's behaviour by attributing to them independent mental states, such as beliefs and desires, is known as having a 'theory of mind'. Interest in this very human ability has engendered a growing body of evidence concerning its evolution and development and the biological basis of the mechanisms underpinning it. Functional imaging has played a key role in seeking to isolate brain regions specific to this ability. Three areas are consistently activated in association with theory of mind. These are the anterior paracingulate cortex, the superior temporal sulci and the temporal poles bilaterally. This review discusses the functional significance of each of these areas within a social cognitive network.
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 03/2003; 7(2):77-83. · 16.01 Impact Factor


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Kevin N Ochsner