Annual Review of Psychology Vol 57, 2006 by Susan T. Fiske

By Susan T. Fiske

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Both humans and nonhuman primates have been shown to learn emotional properties of stimuli vicariously, through observing the emotional reactions of a conspecific (Ohman & Mineka 2001). The procedures for fear conditioning and instructed fear were similar to that described above. The subjects in the observational fear paradigm watched a video of a confederate receiving a mild shock to the wrist paired with some presentations of one stimulus (the observational CS+) and not another (the observational CS−).

In a classic study, Heider & Simmel (1944) showed subjects a film of different geometric shapes moving around a box. Although these were simple shapes, the nature of the movements resulted in subjects describing the shapes as characters with motives interacting in a complex social situation. Heberlein & Adolphs (2004) showed this video to patients with amygdala damage and found that, unlike normal control subjects, their description of the film emphasized the actual movements of the geometric shapes, devoid of any social or emotional context or motives.

Research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has reported increased blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal in the amygdala in response to a neutral stimulus paired with an aversive event, called the CS+, compared to another neutral stimulus that did not predict an aversive event, called the CS- (Buchel et al. 1998, LaBar et al. 1998). The conditioned response, measured as a change in skin conductance (an indication of arousal) to the CS+, was correlated with the magnitude of this amygdala activation (LaBar et al.

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