The big Avoidance Project: The relationship between Neuroticism and conditioned avoidance
MetadataShow full item record
Neuroticism trait is highly associated with mental disorders and psychopathology. Higher levels of neuroticism have been suggested to coexist with higher levels of avoidance and avoidance behaviors are considered to have a crucial role in anxiety-related disorders. Although neuroticism has been the most frequently studied personality trait in stress research, only a few studies have examined how it is related to the acquisition of conditioned avoidance. The aims of this study were two (1) to investigate the relationship between neuroticism trait and conditioned differential avoidance, (2) to investigate the relationship between neuroticism trait and differential relief rating. The experimental design of the study was based on experimental procedures used in the study of San Martin and her colleagues (2020) and consisted of 3 phases: 1) Pavlovian phase, 2) Instrumental phase, and 3) generalization phase. In a sample of 195 participants (N=195), two lamp colors (CS +) were associated with an aversive sound (US), while a third color was not (CS -). Next, participants could effectively avoid the US (CS + av), by clicking a button during the presentation of the CS +, but not during the presentation of the CS + unav. Avoidance generalization was investigated via button clicks during morphed colors between CS + av and CS + unav. During the experiment, participants completed relief rating, fear rating and US expectancy rating scales. Results did not reveal a significant relationship between neuroticism trait and differential avoidance (CS + av, CS -) and between neuroticism trait and differential relief rating. Taken together, individual differences in neuroticism did not play a significant role in avoidance frequency and in relief rating. However, the avoidance conditioning paradigm was successful, showing that participants successfully acquired the contingencies, learned what to fear and avoid, as well as generalized their fear and avoidance to similar stimuli.