The strong situation, as formulated by social psychologists, refers to an experimental condition offering unambiguous stimuli predicting or constituting hedonically strong events that uniformly guide response sets across individuals. In relation to fear and anxiety, the strong situation results from the unambiguous threat of an imminent and dangerous stimulus that evokes the adaptive fear response among anxiety patients and healthy controls alike. The current paper describes evidence that weakening the experimental situation through reducing the certainty, temporal proximity, and/or potency of the aversive stimulus may facilitate the emergence of patient-control differences in psychobiological measures of anxious arousal. Additionally, weak situations may be useful for testing the clinical utility of anxiolytic agents, given that pharmacological treatments of anxiety disorders are not intended to reduce the adaptive, normative response likely evoked by strong threat situations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial support of this report was provided by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health.
- Anxiety disorders
- Strong situation