FEAR CONDITIONING ACROSS DEVELOPMENT: AN EXAMINATION OF FEAR ACQUISITION, EXTINCTION, AND GENERALIZATION IN 5-TO-10 YEAR OLD CHILDREN
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The acquisition and extinction of fear is widely studied using fear conditioning (FC) paradigms. Few studies, however, have examined how fear learning emerges across development. Understanding the developmental mechanisms underlying FC can provide a framework to examine disruptions in fear learning, particularly when fears become pervasive as in the case of anxiety disorders. Traditional FC paradigms in adult and animal studies involve aversive stimuli, like shock, which present ethical limitations in youth. The present study aimed to examine the validity of a novel FC paradigm in a sample of sixty-four typically developing 9-to-15 year old children. Results revealed differential learning to the CS+ compared to the CS- during conditioning as evidenced by subjective fear ratings and greater skin conductance response. No differences emerged across pre-conditioning and extinction phases. Results from this study indicate the utility of this novel bell conditioning paradigm at eliciting fear learning and extinction behaviors in children.