Are two threats worse than one? The effects of face race and emotional expression on fear conditioning


  • This work was supported by grant number DP110100490 from the Australian Research Council.


Facial cues of racial outgroup or anger mediate fear learning that is resistant to extinction. Whether this resistance is potentiated if fear is conditioned to angry, other race faces has not been established. Two groups of Caucasian participants were conditioned with two happy and two angry face conditional stimuli (CSs). During acquisition, one happy and one angry face were paired with an aversive unconditional stimulus whereas the second happy and angry faces were presented alone. CS face race (Caucasian, African American) was varied between groups. During habituation, electrodermal responses were larger to angry faces regardless of race and declined less to other race faces. Extinction was immediate for Caucasian happy faces, delayed for angry faces regardless of race, and slowest for happy racial outgroup faces. Combining the facial cues of other race and anger does not enhance resistance to extinction of fear.