Investigations of fear conditioning have recently begun to evaluate contextual factors that affect attention-related processes. However, much of the extant literature does not evaluate how contextual fear learning influences neural indicators of attentional processes during goal-directed activity. The current study evaluated how early attention for task-relevant stimuli and conflict monitoring were affected when presented within task-irrelevant safety and threat contexts after fear learning. Participants (N = 72) completed a Flanker task with modified context before and after context-dependent fear learning. Flanker stimuli were presented in the same threat and safety contexts utilized in the fear learning task while EEG was collected. Results indicated increased early attention (N1) to flankers appearing in threat contexts and later increased neural indicators (P2) of attention to flankers appearing in safety contexts. Results of this study indicate that contextual fear learning modulates early attentional processes for task-relevant stimuli that appear in the context of safety and threat. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.
- Event-related potential