Exposure techniques: The role of extinction learning

Abstract

In this chapter, we review studies conducted in humans and other animals (mainly rats) in order to characterise current understanding on experimental extinction, and the possible implications for exposure-based therapies. Extinction learning, rather than producing unlearning (or erasure) of the original {S–O} association, seems to be best captured as new learning which is highly context dependent. Put it precisely, when the extinguished stimulus is tested outside of the physical or temporal context in which extinction took place, recovery from extinction is observed. In the second part of the chapter, we review several manipulations which have proven successful in the laboratory to attenuate the recovery from extinction observed under diverse circumstances. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for current theoretical approaches to extinction, with a special emphasis on two families of approaches that succeed in explaining some critical findings (but not all) in experimental extinction.

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