Yannick Boddez's research while affiliated with Ghent University and other places

Publications (76)

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Background: Learning tasks have been used to predict why some, and not others, develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after exposure to a traumatic event. There is some evidence from prospective studies in high risk profession samples that reduced extinction learning might represent a marker or even a vulnerability factor for PTSD developmen...
Article
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People are more likely to engage in various suboptimal behaviors such as overeating, addictive behaviors, and short-sighted financial decision making when they are under stress. Traditional dual-process models propose that stress can impair the ability to engage in goal-directed behavior so that people have to rely on habitual behavior. Support for...
Article
In this commentary, we note our agreement with many of the statements made by Gawronski et al. (this issue), in particular the idea that implicit bias (IB) is a behavioral phenomenon that can be observed both in the laboratory (e.g., bias in implicit measures; BIM) as well as outside of the laboratory. We also discuss two points of disagreement. Fi...
Article
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People often keep engaging in behaviors that used to be successful in the past but which are knowingly no longer effective in the current situation, so called action slips. Such action slips are often explained with stimulus-driven processes in which behavior is caused by a stimulus- response association and without information about the outcome of...
Article
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Effective behavioral interventions are essential to address urgent societal challenges. Over the past decade, nudging interventions (i.e., arranging the environment to promote adaptive behavioral choices) have surged in popularity. Importantly, effective application of the nudging approach requires clear guiding principles with a firm basis in beha...
Article
To date, the phenomenological and functional aspects of autobiographical memory have by and large been studied separately. This is quite remarkable, given that both can inform each other, and that investigating their interaction can add to the understanding of the (in)adaptivity of certain memory characteristics for our well-being. In other words,...
Preprint
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This project encompasses three studies that explore the association between autobiographical memory sharing and social support. We include data, scripts and materials for all studies and in addition, study 3 is pre-registered.
Preprint
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People often keep engaging in behaviors that used to be successful in the past but which are knowingly no longer effective in the current situation, so called action slips. Such action slips are often explained with stimulus-driven processes in which behavior is caused by a stimulus-response association and without information about the outcome of...
Article
Memory is under investigation as one of the core mechanisms of psychopathology. The traditional cognitive view of memory as a stable structure with a range of set characteristics can be complemented with a perspective that considers remembering as a behaviour that varies fluidly across contexts. Remembering may serve adaptation to the environment b...
Article
Little is known about why people behave the way they do in threatening situations. Some theories invoke a transfer of responses from unconditioned stimuli (US) to conditioned threat signals (CS), but this principle goes astray, because responses to the US and CS can differ substantially. The idea that we introduce here is that the pattern of respon...
Article
A common assumption in human fear conditioning research is that findings are informative for the etiology and treatment of clinical anxiety. One way to empirically evaluate the external validity of fear conditioning is by prospective studies. We review available prospective research investigating whether individual performance in fear conditioning...
Article
Individual differences in extinction learning have attracted ample attention of researchers and are under investigation as a marker for the onset of anxiety disorders and treatment response. Unfortunately, the common paradigm for obtaining the extinction rate, which entails aversive stimulus pairings, is subject to practical limitations. Therefore,...
Article
Background and objectives Fatigue is an adaptive state after prolonged effort and often goes hand in hand with changes in behavior and motivation, such as the urge to stop exerting further effort. However, fatigue may become chronic in nature, as seen in multiple psychiatric disorders and chronic diseases, thereby losing its adaptive function. The...
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As an alternative to biological reductionist and network approaches to psychopathology, we propose a non-reductionist mental-mechanistic approach. To illustrate this approach, we work out the implications of the goal-directed framework of Moors, Boddez, and De Houwer [1], which has the potential to explain the heterogeneous manifestations of psycho...
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Current theories propose that our sense of curiosity is determined by the learning progress or information gain that our cognitive system expects to make. However, few studies have explicitly tried to quantify subjective information gain and link it to measures of curiosity. Here, we asked people to report their curiosity about the intrinsically en...
Article
The human fear-conditioning paradigm is a widely used procedure to study anxiety. However, merely thinking about the aversive outcome is typically not measured in this procedure. This is surprising because thinking of an aversive event is of clinical relevance (e.g., in the form of intrusions) and theoretical interest. We present two preregistered...
Article
This special issue celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Little Albert study, published in February 1920, which marked the birth of human fear conditioning research. The collection of papers in this special issue provides a snapshot of the thriving state of this field today. In this Editorial, we first trace the historical roots of the field and...
Article
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Recent research findings indicate that human fear conditioning is affected by instructions, particularly those concerning the contingency between the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (US). However, whether or not such instructions were provided to participants often remains unsaid in fear conditioning studies. In the current...
Article
The generalization of learned behavior has been extensively investigated, but accounting for variance in generalized responding remains a challenge. Based on recent advances, we demonstrate that the inclusion of perceptual measures in generalization research may lead to a better understanding of both intra- and interindividual differences in genera...
Preprint
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Human fear conditioning is often seen as the result of a highly automatic process that is independent of higher cognitive functions and verbal instructions. However, cumulative research findings call this view into question. In the current preregistered study (N = 102), we investigated whether the number of participants who successfully show condit...
Article
For decades already, the human fear conditioning paradigm has been used to study and develop treatments for anxiety disorders. This research is guided by theoretical assumptions that, in some cases indirectly, stem from the tradition of association formation models (e.g., the Rescorla-Wagner model). We argue that one of these assumptions – fear res...
Article
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In the current study, we examined the role of expectancy violation and retrospective reasoning about the absence of feared outcomes in virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET). Participants fearful of public speaking were asked to give speeches in virtual reality. We asked each participant individually to report their expectancies about feared outco...
Article
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Exposure to negative life stress has been associated with difficulty retrieving memories for specific autobiographical events, with important consequences for the emergence of emotional disorders. We examined whether social support can protect against the effects of negative events on memory specificity. University students (N = 143) were assigned...
Article
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Sleep disturbances and anxiety disorders exhibit high comorbidity levels, but it remains unclear whether sleep problems are causes or consequences of increased anxiety. To experimentally probe the aetiological role of sleep disturbances in anxiety, we investigated in healthy participants how total sleep deprivation influences fear expression in a c...
Article
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Sharing specific autobiographical events is likely to influence the support people give us; a person who shares little detail of their lives may be unlikely to attract social support and this may in turn contribute towards anxious and depressive symptoms. Participants (N = 142) reported memories evoked by negative and positive cue words and these m...
Article
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We examine whether a stimulus generalization framework can provide insight in how experience shapes evaluative responses to artworks. Participants received positive information about one artwork and negative information about another artwork. Afterwards, we tested their evaluative responses not only to these artworks but also to similar artworks, w...
Article
In exposure therapy, the client can either be confronted with the fear-eliciting situations in a hierarchical way or in a random way. In the current study we developed a procedure to investigate the effects of hierarchical versus random exposure on long-term fear responding in the laboratory. Using a fear conditioning procedure, one stimulus (CS +)...
Article
Background and objectives: In psychoeducation before exposure treatment patients are sometimes provided with information about the (low) probability that the feared outcome would occur. Since it has been proposed in the literature that this might have adverse effects, the current study investigated the effect of providing participants with this ty...
Article
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Fear learning reflects the adaptive ability to learn to anticipate aversive events and to display preparatory fear reactions based on prior experiences. Usually, these learning experiences are modeled in the lab with pairings between neutral conditioned stimuli and aversive unconditioned stimulus (i.e., fear conditioning via CS-US pairings). Nevert...
Article
I present a conditioning theory of grief. From conditioning research on appetitive disorders (e.g., addiction and binge eating), I borrow the concept cue-elicited craving. More precisely, the theory postulates that, throughout a life together, a variety of cues become associated with the presence of the loved one and that because of this these cues...
Article
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The blocking effect has inspired numerous associative learning theories and is widely cited in the literature. We recently reported a series of 15 experiments that failed to obtain a blocking effect in rodents. Based on those consistent failures, we claimed that there is a lack of insight into the boundary conditions for blocking. In his commentary...
Article
Impaired selective fear learning has been advanced as a core mechanism involved in excessive spreading of protective responses such as pain-related fear and avoidance leading to disability in chronic pain conditions. Using the litmus test for selective learning effects, the blocking procedure, we tested the hypothesis that fibromyalgia patients sho...
Article
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Objective/background: Sleep can have an important influence on memory. However, it is unclear whether there is any relation between sleep quality and the specificity with which autobiographical memories are retrieved, a key factor associated with vulnerability for, and the presence of, depression and other psychiatric diagnoses. The present study...
Article
Background and objectives During exposure therapy, patients are encouraged to approach the feared stimulus, so they can experience that this stimulus is not followed by the anticipated aversive outcome. However, patients might treat the absence of the aversive outcome as an ‘exception to the rule’. This could hamper the generalization of fear reduc...
Article
Chronic fatigue complaints are frequently reported in the general population and fatigue ranks among the most commonly reported symptoms in chronic disease. In contrast to its high prevalence and impact on quality of life, relatively little is understood about the etiology of chronic fatigue. We present a cognitive-behavioral framework, the 'ALT+F'...
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Standard dual process models in the action domain postulate that stimulus-driven processes are responsible for suboptimal behavior because they take them to be rigid and automatic and therefore the default. We propose an alternative dual process model in which goal-directed processes are the default instead. We then transfer the dual process logic...
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Learning theories of depression have proposed that depressive cognitions, such as negative thoughts with reference to oneself, can develop through a reinforcement learning mechanism. This negative self-reference is considered to be positively reinforced by rewarding experiences such as genuine support from others after negative self-disclosure, and...
Article
A major objective of experimental psychopathology research is to improve clinical practice via the experimental study of treatment mechanisms. The success of this endeavor depends on the external validity of the procedures used to model the treatment component in the laboratory. We propose a general framework and a set of specific criteria that wil...
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Generalizing what is learned about one stimulus to other but perceptually related stimuli is a basic behavioral phenomenon. We evaluated whether a rule learning mechanism may serve to explain such generalization. To this end, we assessed whether inference rules communicated through verbal instructions affect generalization. Expectancy ratings, but...
Article
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With the discovery of the blocking effect, learning theory took a huge leap forward, because blocking provided a crucial clue that surprise is what drives learning. This in turn stimulated the development of novel association-formation theories of learning. Eventually, the ability to explain blocking became nothing short of a touchstone for the val...
Article
Background and objectives: Misperception of sleep (e.g., underestimation of sleep time relative to objective measures) is a common feature of insomnia and other psychopathologies. To elucidate the mechanisms underlying this tendency, we examined the role of pre-sleep cognitive arousal and overgeneralization. Methods: We monitored the sleep of 54...
Article
We propose that the premature onset of fear responding is a potentially important feature of pathological fear. A behavioral protocol to study the temporal regulation of fear in humans is, however, lacking. The present study aims at developing such a protocol for healthy individuals. To this end, we investigated the effect of conditional stimulus d...
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Instead of converging to one, all-embracing resilience mechanism – that is, positive appraisal style – we encourage complementary research strategies, exploring both vulnerabilities and resilience factors, much like the biomedical sciences combine insights from pathophysiology and immunology. Furthermore, we argue that research with a strong focus...
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Associative learning plays an important role in the development of anxiety disorders, but a thorough understanding of the variables that impact such learning is still lacking. We investigated whether individual differences in autobiographical memory specificity are related to discrimination learning and generalization. In an associative learning ta...
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A case is made for the use of hierarchical models in the analysis of generalization gradients. Hierarchical models overcome several restrictions that are imposed by repeated measures analysis-of-variance (rANOVA), the default statistical method in current generalization research. More specifically, hierarchical models allow to include continuous in...
Article
Learned fear can generalize to neutral events due their perceptual and conceptual similarity with threat relevant stimuli. This study simultaneously examined these forms of generalization to model the expansion of fear in anxiety disorders. First, artificial categories involving sounds, nonsense words and animal-like objects were established. Next,...
Article
In chronic musculoskeletal pain, avoidance behavior is a prominent behavioral characteristic that can manifest itself in various ways. It is also considered a crucial component in the development and maintenance of chronic pain-related disability, supposedly fueled by pain-related fear and catastrophic beliefs. Despite the frequent occurrence of av...
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BLOCKING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PHENOMENON IN THE HISTORY OF ASSOCIATIVE LEARNING THEORY: for over 40 years, blocking has inspired a whole generation of learning models. Blocking is part of a family of effects that are typically termed "cue competition" effects. Common amongst all cue competition effects is that a cue-outcome relation is poorly lear...
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We investigated whether offset-control of the unconditioned stimulus (US) reduces context conditioning induced by US-unpredictability within a human conditioned suppression preparation. We also examined lack of control vs. loss of control. Three groups (No Controllability, NC; Controllability, C; Loss of Controllability, LC) received unsignaled USs...
Article
Non-specificity of fear is a core aspect of what makes anxiety disorders so impairing: Fear does not remain specific to a single stimulus paired with danger, but generalizes to a broad set of stimuli, resulting in a snowballing of threat signals. The blocking procedure can provide a valuable laboratory model for gaining insight into such threat app...
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The present study aimed to investigate whether instructional threat information can be used to remediate overgeneral threat appraisal. We investigated whether identifying one specific stimulus as cause of danger might reduce threat value of other stimuli that were present during an aversive conditioning event. Participants were shown two neutral st...
Article
Using a conditioned suppression task, we examined the minimal conditions to establish context conditioning as induced by unpredictability of an unconditioned stimulus (US). We investigated whether a biologically significant US is necessary to produce such context conditioning effects. In this between-subjects experiment, we manipulated the nature o...
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Complex fear learning procedures might be better suited than the common differential fear-conditioning paradigm for detecting individual differences related to vulnerability for anxiety disorders. Two such procedures are the blocking procedure and the protection-from-overshadowing procedure. Their comparison allows for the examination of discrimina...
Article
Background and objectives: Human fear conditioning is widely regarded as one of the prime paradigms for the study of fear and anxiety disorders. We provide an evaluation of a commonly used subjective measure in the human fear conditioning paradigm, namely the US-expectancy measurement. Methods: We assess the validity of US-expectancy with respec...
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Return of fear following successful exposure therapy is a common problem. More insight into the characteristics of extinction learning is crucial in enhancing the efficiency of therapeutic interventions. In particular, understanding the mechanisms that underlie the generalization of extinction learning to other discrete stimuli is indispensable. Pr...
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Fear conditioning is one of the prime paradigms of behavioural neuroscience and a source of tremendous insight in the fundamentals of learning and memory and the psychology and neurobiology of emotion. It is also widely regarded as a model for the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders in a diathesis-stress model of psychopathology. Starting from the ap...
Article
In a blocking procedure, a single conditioned stimulus (CS) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US), such as electric shock, in the first stage. During the subsequent stage, the CS is presented together with a second CS and this compound is followed by the same US. Fear conditioning studies in non-human animals have demonstrated that fear res...
Article
In a typical blocking procedure, pairings of a compound consisting of 2 stimuli, A and X, with the outcome are preceded by pairings of only A with the outcome (i.e., A+ then AX+). This procedure is known to diminish responding to the target cue (X) relative to a control group that does not receive the preceding training with blocking cue A. We repo...
Article
Generalization of acquired responses appears to be a crucial, yet under investigated process in emotional disorders. Generalization occurs when a conditioned response is elicited by a stimulus different from the original conditioned stimulus. The expansion of complaints, often seen in emotional disorders, is at least in part due to processes of gen...

Citations

... These findings are in line with other recent theoretical and empirical work (Buabang et al., 2021a(Buabang et al., , 2021bDe Houwer et al., 2018;Hogarth, 2020Hogarth, , 2022Hommel & Wiers, 2017; ...
... The core procedural elements of