In the present study, it was investigated by employing a human fear conditioning paradigm whether an extinction retrieval cue can attenuate renewal of conditioned responding after an extinction treatment procedure, and if so, what the precise role of such an extinction cue comprises. It was hypothesized that such a cue can attenuate renewal and would function as a safety signal capable of directly inhibiting the expectancy of an aversive outcome and conditioned skin conductance responding to a conditioned stimulus. The results demonstrated that the extinguished expectancy of an aversive outcome was renewed when the CS was presented outside the extinction context and that an extinction cue attenuated this effect. This extinction cue, however, only transferred its inhibitory properties to other, non-extinguished stimuli when there was no contextual switch. This safety signal function was not observed after a switch in context. Possible functions of the extinction cue and its application in extinction-based exposure treatments are discussed.
Dibbets, P., Havermans, R. C., & Arntz, A. R. (2008). All we need is a cue to remember: The effect of an extinction cue on renewal. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46(9), 1070-1077. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2008.05.007