The Influence of Repetitive Thoughts of CS-US Pairing on Expectancy Learning and Evaluative Conditioning

Published: 31 August 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/m9ptn4vzpd.1
Thierry Kosinski


Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is a pathological process linked to a variety of mental disorders. The mechanisms involved in RNT, however, remain somewhat elusive. The content of repetitive thoughts typically involves predicting aversive events (in worry) or evoking negatively valenced information (in rumination) in reaction to various stimuli. Thus, investigating RNT through the lens of expectancy learning and evaluative conditioning could help deepen our understanding of its underlying mechanisms. In two experiments, participants were exposed to CS-US pairings with the aim of creating expectancy learning (Experiment 1) or evaluative conditioning (Experiment 2). After each conditioning trial, participants were instructed either to mentally repeat the pairing (an experimental analogue of RNT) or follow control instructions. Experiment 1 (N = 64) showed that mental repetition strengthens the association between the mental representations of the CS and the US, leading to a stronger US expectancy in response to the CS. In Experiment 2 (N = 107), we observed an evaluative conditioning effect; however, this effect was not influenced by repetitive thinking. The study demonstrated that repetitive thinking about CS-US pairings strengthens the CS-US association and leads to greater US expectancy in expectancy learning, despite appearing not to influence the CSs’ emotional acquired valence.



Universite de Lille UFR de Psychologie