Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

September 1992


Published in Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 30 No. 5 (Sept. 1992), pp. 551-554. Copyright © 1992 Pergamon Press Ltd/Springer-Verlag. Used by permission.


One path to human phobia may be one-trial backward fear conditioning. Human phobias transfer readily across contexts. However, animal studies of one-trial backward fear conditioning have yet to demonstrate such transfer. The present study sought to do so. It used a lick-suppression procedure with 84 naive male albino rats. Two conditioning contexts, designated O and V, were crossed factorially with two test contexts, O and V. Within each cell of the factorial design, rats received in the conditioning context either a single 12 sec tone backward paired with a single 4 sec 1 mA shock or the same tone explicitly unpaired with shock. Fear of context and fear of tone were subsequently assessed in terms of the suppression of licking that they evoked. Test results suggested that (1) the rats discriminated between contexts O and V, and (2) despite such discrimination, one-trial backward fear conditioning transfered across the two contexts. The results enhance the plausibility of one-trial backward fear conditioning as a source of human phobia.