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Background: Modern diathesis-stress models of psychological disorders, in particular those of anxiety disorders, consider individual differences in fear learning and different learning histories as central mechanisms. This renewed emphasis on conditioning is based on the sophisticated knowledge of modern cognitive and biological learning research, which is, however, insufficiently known in the field of clinical psychology. Aim: This review endeavors to provide an insight into classical conditioning research tailored for clinical psychologists. Throughout the text examples are given how associative learning may contribute to clinical problems. Conclusions: Associative learning plays an important role in the acquisition and maintenance of anxiety disorders and provides a useful framework for understanding individual outcomes of aversive experiences. It has further been shown that novel innovative therapeutic interventions (e.g., giving D-cycloserine as an adjunct to exposure therapy) are based on a sound understanding of associative learning. © Hogrefe Verlag Göttingen 2008.

Original publication




Journal article


Zeitschrift fur Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie

Publication Date





221 - 230