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What Is Going On Around Here? Intolerance of Uncertainty Predicts Threat Generalization


Morriss, Jayne; Macdonald, Birthe; van Reekum, Carien M (2016). What Is Going On Around Here? Intolerance of Uncertainty Predicts Threat Generalization. PLoS ONE, 11(5):e0154494.

Abstract

Attending to stimuli that share perceptual similarity to learned threats is an adaptive strategy. However, prolonged threat generalization to cues signalling safety is considered a core feature of pathological anxiety. One potential factor that may sustain over-generalization is sensitivity to future threat uncertainty. To assess the extent to which Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU) predicts threat generalization, we recorded skin conductance in 54 healthy participants during an associative learning paradigm, where threat and safety cues varied in perceptual similarity. Lower IU was associated with stronger discrimination between threat and safety cues during acquisition and extinction. Higher IU, however, was associated with generalized responding to threat and safety cues during acquisition, and delayed discrimination between threat and safety cues during extinction. These results were specific to IU, over and above other measures of anxious disposition. These findings highlight: (1) a critical role of uncertainty-based mechanisms in threat generalization, and (2) IU as a potential risk factor for anxiety disorder development.

Abstract

Attending to stimuli that share perceptual similarity to learned threats is an adaptive strategy. However, prolonged threat generalization to cues signalling safety is considered a core feature of pathological anxiety. One potential factor that may sustain over-generalization is sensitivity to future threat uncertainty. To assess the extent to which Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU) predicts threat generalization, we recorded skin conductance in 54 healthy participants during an associative learning paradigm, where threat and safety cues varied in perceptual similarity. Lower IU was associated with stronger discrimination between threat and safety cues during acquisition and extinction. Higher IU, however, was associated with generalized responding to threat and safety cues during acquisition, and delayed discrimination between threat and safety cues during extinction. These results were specific to IU, over and above other measures of anxious disposition. These findings highlight: (1) a critical role of uncertainty-based mechanisms in threat generalization, and (2) IU as a potential risk factor for anxiety disorder development.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:23 Sep 2019 10:38
Last Modified:12 Sep 2020 01:22
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154494

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