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The effect of foreign language in fear acquisition

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  • Azucena Garcia-Palacios
  • Albert Costa
  • Diana Castilla
  • Eva del Rio
  • Aina Casaponsa
  • Jon Andoni Duñabeitia
Article number1157
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>18/01/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Scientific Reports
Number of pages8
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Emotions are at the core of human nature. There is evidence that emotional reactivity in foreign languages compared to native languages is reduced. We explore whether this emotional distance could modulate fear conditioning, an essential mechanism for the understanding and treatment of anxiety disorders. A group of participants was verbally informed (either in a foreign or in a native language) that two different stimuli could be either cueing the potential presence of a threat stimulus or its absence. We registered pupil size and electrodermal activity and calculated the difference in psychophysiological responses to conditioned and to unconditioned stimuli. Our findings provided evidence that verbal conditioning processes are affected by language context in this paradigm. We report the first experimental evidence regarding how the use of a foreign language may reduce fear conditioning. This observation opens the avenue to the potential use of a foreign language in clinical contexts.