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No study so far has
specifically addressed the influence of individual differences in trait-anxiety
on aversive classical conditioning as indexed by the startle reflex response.
We compared the startle reflex responses between participants classified as
high (n = 25) and low (n = 26) in trait-anxiety while undergoing a single-cue
aversive classical conditioning procedure. High trait-anxiety group showed a
greater startle response to the CS relative to the ITI at the post-acquisition
compared with the pre-acquisition phase. Low trait-anxiety group did not show
such a clear pattern of conditioning, and results from this group seem to be
concealed by differences in the startle responses to the CS and the ITI during
the pre-acquisition phase. However, a post-hoc analysis in which such differences
at pre-conditioning were removed showed no conditioning effects in low trait-anxiety
participants. Taking together, these results suggest differences between high
and low trait-anxiety groups in the acquisition of the CS-US association.
However, further research should clarify the unexpected pattern of responses
shown by low trait-anxiety group.