Could stress (exercise?) help unlearn anxiety?
On the following day, 50 per cent of the cohort were exposed to a stressful situation: they had to hold one hand in ice water and were filmed and monitored by a supervisor. The other 50 per cent of the cohort were not subjected to the stress test. Subsequently, all participants were shown pictures of the lamp emitting coloured light, which were not followed by electric stimulations; however, the lamp was no longer located in an office but in a library. On the third day, the team presented the office and the library photos of the lamp emitting coloured light without following it up by electric stimulations.
In both the office and the library context, participants in the stress group responded less anxiously to the colour of light, which had preceded electric stimulations on the first day. They had transferred the knowledge that no unpleasant stimulus would follow from the library context to the office context. This was not the case in the non-stress cohort. The participants of this group continued to present an anxious response when they saw the colour of light in the office context that had been accompanied by electric stimulations on the first day. When presented library photos, they responded in the same way as the control group, i.e. showing no anxiety. For them, extinction learning occurred only in one specific context.