Emotion–attention interactions in fear conditioning: Moderation by executive load, neuroticism, and awareness

Juyoen Hur, Alexandru D. Iordan, Howard Berenbaum, Florin Dolcos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite increasing evidence suggesting interactive effects of emotion and attention on perceptual processing, it still remains unclear how their interplay influences affective learning, such as fear conditioning. In the present study, a conditioning procedure using threat-related conditioned stimuli (CSs) was implemented while executive load and attentional focus were manipulated. The modulation effects of neuroticism and contingency awareness were also examined. Results showed that fear conditioning depended on the available executive resources even with threat-related CSs. In addition, although individuals with high neuroticism showed an enhanced conditioning effect overall, this facilitation effect still depended on the availability of executive resources. Finally, the impact of attentional focus was most evident among individuals with high neuroticism who were aware of the contingency. Overall, the present study demonstrates interactive effects of emotion and attention in fear conditioning, while illuminating mechanisms of individual differences and clarifying the controversial role of contingency awareness in fear conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Contingency awareness
  • Emotion–cognition interactions
  • Individual differences
  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • Personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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