2023-05-30Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1027/2151-2604/a000523
Prediction of Changes in Negative Affect During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Experimental Fear Conditioning and Generalization Measures
A Longitudinal Study
Adverse experiences interact with individual vulnerability in the etiology of mental disorders, but due to the paucity of longitudinal studies, their precise interplay remains unclear. Here, we investigated how individual differences in threat responsiveness modulated adjustments in negative affect during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants (N = 441) underwent a fear conditioning and generalization experiment between 2013 and 2020 and were reassessed regarding anxiety and depression symptoms after the pandemic outbreak. Participants showed increased levels of negative affect following pandemic onset, which were partly modulated by laboratory measures of threat responsiveness. Decreased differentiation of threat and safety signals in participants with higher prepandemic depression and anxiety scores in the laboratory assessment were most predictive of increased symptom levels after the onset of the pandemic. However, effects were small and should be replicated in independent samples to further characterize how individual differences in threat processing interact with adverse experiences in the development of psychopathology.
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