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Wiggert, Nicole; Wilhelm, Frank H.; Boger, Sabrina; Georgii, Claudio; Klimesch, Wolfgang; Blechert, Jens (2017): Social Pavlovian conditioning: Short- and long-term effects and the role of anxiety and depressive symptoms. In: Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Vol. 12, No. 2: pp. 329-339
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Abstract

Today's stressors largely arise from social interactions rather than from physical threat. However, the dominant laboratory model of emotional learning relies on physical stimuli (e. g. electric shock) whereas adequate models of social conditioning are missing, possibly due to more subtle and multilayered biobehavioral responses to such stimuli. To fill this gap, we acquired a broad set of measures during conditioning to negative social unconditioned stimuli, also taking into account long-termmaintenance of conditioning and inter-individual differences. Fifty-nine healthy participants underwent a classical conditioning task with videos of actors expressing disapproving (US-neg) or neutral (US-neu) statements. Static images of the corresponding actors with a neutral facial expression served as CS+and CS-, predicting US-neg and US-neu, respectively. Autonomic and facial-muscular measures confirmed differential unconditioned responding whereas experiential CS ratings, event-related potentials, and evoked theta oscillations confirmed differential conditioned responding. Conditioning was maintained at 1 month and 1 year follow-ups on experiential ratings, especially in individuals with elevated anxiety and depressive symptoms, documenting the efficiency of social conditioning and its clinical relevance. This novel, ecologically improved conditioning paradigm uncovered