Symptom maintenance: An infrahuman analysis and extension of the conservation of anxiety principle

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Abstract

Focuses on the paradoxical issue of why nonadaptive behavior or symptom maintenance persists over extended periods of time in the absence of any apparent UCS. Recent critics have challenged accounts of this phenomenon that rely on the classical 2-factor avoidance interpretation formulated from the principles developed in the infrahuman conditioning laboratory. They argue that human symptoms persist over extended periods of time, yet infrahuman researchers have only infrequently conditioned avoidance behavior that has resulted in extreme resistance to extinction. Furthermore, laboratory data suggest that classical conditioned fear behavior extinguishes rapidly following CS exposure. In those few cases in which persistent avoidance behavior was noted, there has been a failure to document the presence of fear as the elicitor of such behavior. A model of symptom formation and maintenance is outlined that extends the conservation of anxiety hypothesis to incorporate the concept of CS complexity and sequencing of cues. Two infrahuman (Ss were 60 male rats) avoidance studies are presented that focus on the critical issues raised at this level of analysis. The data are supportive of the model proposed. The principles underlying the model are believed to be operating at the human level and responsible for symptom maintenance. (1½ p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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