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Baumann, Christian; Schiele, Miriam A.; Herrmann, Martin J.; Lonsdorf, Tina B.; Zwanzger, Peter; Domschke, Katharina; Reif, Andreas; Deckert, Jürgen; Pauli, Paul (2017): Effects of an Anxiety-Specific Psychometric Factor on Fear Conditioning and Fear Generalization. In: Zeitschrift für Psychologie-Journal of Psychology, Vol. 225, No. 3: pp. 200-213
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Conditioning and generalization of fear are assumed to play central roles in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders. Here we investigate the influence of a psychometric anxiety-specific factor on these two processes, thus try to identify a potential risk factor for the development of anxiety disorders. To this end, 126 healthy participants were examined with questionnaires assessing symptoms of anxiety and depression and with a fear conditioning and generalization paradigm. A principal component analysis of the questionnaire data identified two factors representing the constructs anxiety and depression. Variations in fear conditioning and fear generalization were solely associated with the anxiety factor characterized by anxiety sensitivity and agoraphobic cognitions;high-anxious individuals exhibited stronger fear responses (arousal) during conditioning and stronger generalization effects for valence and UCS-expectancy ratings. Thus, the revealed psychometric factor "anxiety" was associated with enhanced fear generalization, an assumed risk factor for anxiety disorders. These results ask for replication with a longitudinal design allowing to examine their predictive validity.