Teens that fear screams

A comparison of fear conditioning, extinction, and reinstatement in adolescents and adults

Miriam Liora Den*, Bronwyn M. Graham, Carol Newall, Rick Richardson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated differences between adolescents and adults on fear conditioning, extinction, and reinstatement (i.e., the recovery of conditioned fear following re-exposure to the unconditioned stimulus [US] post-extinction). Participants underwent differential conditioning (i.e., the Screaming Lady) where one neutral face (CS+) was followed by the same face expressing fear and a loud scream (US) while another neutral face (CS-) remained neutral. Extinction involved non-reinforced presentations of both CSs, after which participants were reinstated (2xUSs) or not. On two self-report measures, both ages showed conditioning, good extinction learning and retention, and reinstatement-induced relapse. However, only adolescents showed conditioning, extinction, and reinstatement on the eye tracking measure; relapse on this measure could not be assessed in adults given they did not show initial conditioning. Lastly, higher levels of depression predicted stronger conditioning and weaker extinction in adolescents only. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for adolescent anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)818-832
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

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