Fear extinction to an out-group face: the role of target gender

Psychol Sci. 2009 Feb;20(2):155-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02273.x. Epub 2009 Jan 16.


Conditioning studies on humans and other primates show that fear responses acquired toward danger-relevant stimuli, such as snakes, resist extinction, whereas responses toward danger-irrelevant stimuli, such as birds, are more readily extinguished. Similar evolved biases may extend to human groups, as recent research demonstrates that a conditioned fear response to faces of persons of a social out-group resists extinction, whereas fear toward a social in-group is more readily extinguished. Here, we provide an important extension to previous work by demonstrating that this fear-extinction bias occurs solely when the exemplars are male. These results underscore the importance of considering how gender of the target stimulus affects psychological and physiological responses to out-group threat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Face*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult