Emotional Processing

The neo-conditioning model proposes that the CS and UCS are cognitively represented, possibly in networks of interconnections among CSs, CRs, UCS, and UCR. The emotion processing model developed by Edna B. Foa and others (e.g., see Foa and Kozak, 1986) can be seen as an extension of the neo-conditioning model. According to the emotional processing model, fears are represented in networks known as fear structures stored in long-term memory. The networks contain cognitive representations of feared stimuli (e.g., oncoming trucks, driving at night), response information (e.g., palpitations, trembling, subjective fear, escape behaviors), and meaning information (e.g., the concept of danger). In the network the three types of information are linked (e.g., links between oncoming trucks, danger, and fear). Links can be innate (i.e., UCS-UCR links) or acquired by processes such as classical conditioning (CS-UCS links and CS-CR links). Fear structures are activated by incoming information that matches information stored in the network. Activation of the network evokes fear and motivates avoidance or escape behavior. According to Foa and colleagues, fears are reduced by modifying the fear structure through the incorporation of corrective information (e.g., safety information acquired during behavioral exposure exercises).

The neo-conditioning perspective and the emotional processing model are useful ways of conceptualizing fears, and can account for phenomena that are not explained by the two-factor theory (e.g., postcon-ditioning fear inflation due to UCS inflation). A further advantage is that these models are compatible with other cognitive models of fears, such as those discussed in the following sections. The emotional processing model has the advantage of readily including multiple pathways for the acquisition of fears, such as classical conditioning, modeling, and verbal information. The possibility of innate fears is also consistent with the model, if one assumes that some networks or fragments of networks are innate. The model also includes a role for dysfunctional beliefs, which may amplify fears and other emotional reactions. Beliefs are represented in the network as links between meaning concepts and stimulus or response concepts (e.g., "tunnels are dangerous" is represented by a link between "tunnel" and "danger").

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