The degree of safety behaviors to a safety stimulus predicts development of threat beliefs

Alex H.K. Wong*, Eva A.M. van Dis, Andre Pittig, Muriel A. Hagenaars, Iris M. Engelhard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Safety behaviors are behavioral responses that aim to prevent or minimize an imminent threat when confronting a feared stimulus. Despite its adaptive purpose, preliminary evidence suggests that unnecessary safety behaviors to a safety stimulus induce threat beliefs to it. By allowing participants to engage in safety behaviors dimensionally, this study tested whether the degree of safety behaviors to a safety stimulus predicts the subsequent level of threat expectancies to it. To this end, participants first acquired safety behaviors to a threat-related stimulus (A). Safety behaviors then became available only for one safety stimulus (C), but not to another safety stimulus (B). After engaging in safety behaviors to C, participants exhibited greater threat expectancies to C compared to B, albeit with a small effect size. Importantly, the degree of safety behaviors predicted an increase in threat expectancies. The current findings suggest that safety behaviors to safety stimuli are linked to the development of threat beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104423
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume170
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

Research programs

  • ESSB PSY

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