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Mechanisms of virtual reality exposure therapy : the role of the behavioral activation and behavioral inhibition systems

Wilhelm, F. H. and Pfaltz, M. C. and Gross, J. J. and Mauss, I. and Kim, S. I. and Wiederhold, B. K.. (2005) Mechanisms of virtual reality exposure therapy : the role of the behavioral activation and behavioral inhibition systems. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 30 (3). pp. 271-284.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A5250340

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Abstract

J. A. Gray's (1975) theory distinguishes between two motivational systems, which he refers to as the behavioral activation system (BAS) and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS). D. C. Fowles (1980) has shown that heart rate responses reflect activity of the BAS, and electrodermal responses reflect activity of the BIS. Both BAS and BIS are reliably activated during in-vivo exposure to fearful situations (F. H. Wilhelm & W. T. Roth, 1998). However, due to the constraints imposed by virtual reality (VR), we hypothesized that VR exposure to fearful situations would activate the BIS alone. To test this hypothesis, a VR free-standing elevator simulation was presented to participants selected for high and low fear of heights. As predicted, the high-anxious group strongly responded electrodermally (effect size d = 1.53), but showed only minimal HR elevations during exposure (d = 0.12), and little other cardiovascular or respiratory changes. The low-anxious control group showed little electrodermal and HR reactivity (d = 0.28 and 0.12). A comparison with data from a previous study demonstrated that this pattern was in stark contrast to the large electrodermal and cardiovascular response observed during situational in-vivo exposure outside the laboratory. We conclude that the BIS, but not BAS, is selectively activated during VR exposure, causing discordance between self-report and commonly used physiological measures of anxiety. Results are discussed within the framework of E. B. Foa & M. J. Kozak's (1986) emotional processing theory of fear modification, suggesting different mechanisms underlying VR and in-vivo exposure treatments.
Faculties and Departments:07 Faculty of Psychology
07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Ehemalige Einheiten Psychologie > Abteilung Klinische Psychologie und Psychiatrie
07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Ehemalige Einheiten Psychologie > Psychophysiologie (Wilhelm)
UniBasel Contributors:Wilhelm, Frank H and Pfaltz, Monique Christine
Item Type:Article, refereed
Bibsysno:Link to catalogue
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1090-0586
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Language:English
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Last Modified:21 Sep 2017 13:24
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 13:42

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