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Training and testing for a transformation of fear and avoidance functions using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure: The first study

Leech, Aileen, Bouyrden, Jaber, Bruijsten, Nathalie, Barnes-Holmes, Dermot, McEnteggart, Ciara
Behavioural processes 2018 v.157 pp. 24-35
Araneae, Metatheria, avoidance conditioning, fearfulness, geometry, pets
Experiment 1 aimed to establish “fearful” and “pleasant” functions for arbitrary stimuli (geometric shapes) by relating those stimuli to pictures of spiders and pets using a training version of the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP). The transformation of these functions for the arbitrary stimuli was assessed by exposing participants to a ‘traditional’ version of the IRAP, the Fear-IRAP employed by Leech et al. (2016, 2017). A broadly similar pattern of response biases was recorded for the Fear-IRAP as had been observed in the previously published studies. Experiment 1 thus supported the assumed but untested assumption that the relational context provided by the IRAP may both serve to establish and reveal fear-related response biases in arbitrary stimuli. A second experiment attempted to replicate the effects observed in Experiment 1 but using pictures of ‘unfamiliar’ Australian marsupials as arbitrary stimuli. The pattern of results obtained in Experiment 2 failed to replicate the pattern observed in Experiment 1, or that reported in the previously published studies by Leech et al. Overall, the findings suggest a possibly important boundary condition for the IRAP as a training and/or testing context for establishing fear-related response biases for arbitrary stimuli.