Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 390–396 | Cite as

The Nature of Threat: Enhanced Recall of Internal Threat Words in Fear of Flying

  • Anouk Vanden Bogaerde
  • Joris Pieters
  • Rudi De Raedt
Original Article


Conditioning theories propose that fear of flying becomes a conditioned response through the association of flight situations with a threatening aversive event. This implicates that targeting the source of the conditioned fear is essential for exposure treatment. Therefore, the present study aims to investigate the nature of threat in fear of flying, which can be external or internal. The sample consisted of 25 undergraduate students: 12 with fear of flying and 13 controls. We measured free recall of external versus internal threat words and neutral words embedded in a dichotic listening task. The results indicated that all subjects reported more external threat words as compared to the other word categories. However, the only group difference was found for the internal threat words: subjects with fear of flying recalled significantly more internal threat words than controls. This enhanced recall for internal threat-related stimuli in individuals with fear of flying indicates that internal sensations may also be essential threat stimuli to use in exposure, next to external stimuli.


Fear of flying Dichotic listening Memory bias Anxiety 


  1. Bar-Haim, Y., Lamy, D., Pergamin, L., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (2007). Threat-related attentional bias in anxious and nonanxious individuals: A meta-analytic study. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 1–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boronat, C. B., & Logan, G. D. (1997). The role of attention in automatization: Does attention operate at encoding, or retrieval, or both? Memory & Cognition, 25(1), 36–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bouton, M. E., Mineka, S., & Barlow, D. H. (2001). A modern learning theory perspective on the etiology of panic disorder. Psychological Review, 108(1), 4–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Broadbent, D. (1952). Listening to one of two synchronous messages. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 44, 51–55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryden, M. (1988). An overview of the dichotic listening procedure and its relation to cerebral organization. In K. Hughdahl (Ed.), Handbook of dichotic listening: Theory, research and methods. New york: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Burgess, I. S., Jones, L. M., Robertson, S. A., Radcliffe, W. N., & Emerson, E. (1981). The degree of control exerted by phobic and non-phobic verbal stimuli over the recognition behavior of phobic and non-phobic subjects. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 19(3), 233–243.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cherry, E. C. (1953). Some experiments on the recognition of speech, in one and two ears. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 25, 975–979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Christianson, S. A., Safer, M., Autry, M. W., & Osterlund, K. (1992). Narrowing of attention and the recognition of emotionally arousing scenes. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 30(6), 472.Google Scholar
  9. Coles, M. E., & Heimberg, R. G. (2002). Memory biases in the anxiety disorders: Current status. Clinical Psychology Review, 22(4), 587–627.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davey, G. C. L. (Ed.). (1999). Phobias: A handbook of theory, research and treatment. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  11. Duyck, W., Desmet, T., Verbeke, L., & Brysbaert, M. (2004). WordGen: A tool for word selection and non-word generation in Dutch, German, English and French. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 36(3), 488–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Harding, R. M., & Mills, F. J. (1983). Aviation Medicine—Problems of Altitude.1. Hypoxia and Hyperventilation. British Medical Journal, 286(6375), 1408–1410.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jaffee, M. S. (2005). The neurology of aviation, underwater, and space environments. Neurologic Clinics, 23(2), 541.Google Scholar
  14. MacDonald, P. A., & MacLeod, C. M. (1998). The influence of attention at encoding on direct and indirect remembering. Acta Psychologica, 98(2–3), 291–310.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. MacLeod, C., Mathews, A., & Tata, P. (1986). Attentional bias in emotional disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95(1), 15–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mathews, A., & Macleod, C. (1986). Discrimination of Threat Cues without Awareness in Anxiety-States. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95(2), 131–138.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mitte, K. (2008). Memory bias for threatening information in anxiety and anxiety disorders: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 134(6), 886–911.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ouimet, A. J., Gawronski, B., & Dozois, D. J. A. (2009). Cognitive vulnerability to anxiety: A review and an integrative model. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(6), 459–470.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Parkinson, L., & Rachman, S. (1981). Speed of recovery from an uncontrived stress. Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 3, 119–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rivas, M. A. F., & Tortella-Feliu, M. (2000). Anxiety sensitivity and its relationship to fear of flying. Psicologia Conductual, 8(1), 5–17.Google Scholar
  21. Sanchez-Meca, J., Rosa-Alcazar, A. I., Marin-Martinez, F., & Gomez-Conesa, A. (2010). Psychological treatment of panic disorder with or without agoraphobia: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(1), 37–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sheehan, D. V., Janavs, J., Baker, R., Harnett-Sheehan, K., Knapp, E., Sheehan, M., et al. (1998). MINI—mini international neuropsychiatric interview—English version 5.0.0—DSM-IV. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 59, 34–57.Google Scholar
  23. Taylor, S. (1995). Anxiety sensitivity—Theoretical perspectives and recent findings. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33(3), 243–258.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Van den Bergh, O., Winters, W., Devriese, S., & Van Diest, I. (2002). Learning subjective health complaints. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43(2), 147–152.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Van Gerwen, L., Spinhoven, P., Diekstra, R. F. W., & VanDyck, R. (1997). People who seek help for fear of flying: Typology of flying phobics. Behavior Therapy, 28(2), 237–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Van Gerwen, L. J., Spinhoven, P., Van Dyck, R., & Diekstra, R. F. W. (1999). Construction and psychometric characteristics of two self-report questionnaires for the assessment of fear of flying. Psychological Assessment, 11(2), 146–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Vanden Bogaerde, A., & De Raedt, R. (2008). Cognitive vulnerability in fear of flying: The role of anxiety sensitivity. Depression and Anxiety, 25(9), 768–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vanden Bogaerde, A., & De Raedt, R. (submitted). Exploring a possible link between altitude-related hypoxia and fear of flying.Google Scholar
  29. Vriends, N., Michael, T., & Schindler, B. (2009). Enhanced conditionability in flying phobia. Paper presented at the 39th Annual Congress of the European Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy.Google Scholar
  30. Wald, J., & Taylor, S. (2007). Efficacy of interoceptive exposure therapy combined with trauma-related exposure therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: A pilot study. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21, 1050–1060.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wilhelm, F. H., & Roth, W. T. (1997). Clinical characteristics of flight phobia. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 11(3), 241–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Williams, J. M. G., Mathews, A., & MacLeod, C. (1996). The emotional stroop task and psychopathology. Psychological Bulletin, 120(1), 3–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Yiend, J. (2010). The effects of emotion on attention: A review of attentional processing of emotional information. Cognition and Emotion, 24(1), 3–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anouk Vanden Bogaerde
    • 1
  • Joris Pieters
    • 2
  • Rudi De Raedt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Experimental Clinical and Health PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselBelgium

Personalised recommendations