Interesting work on fear and memory published in Science and dumbed down for mass consumption at Psychcentral:
For one experimental group, the re-consolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture. For a control group, the re-consolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.
Because the experimental group was not allowed to re-consolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture dissipated. This rendered the memory neutral — and no longer able to incite fear.
What’s notable about this is that it shows how fear is tied to signifiers and conditioned responses. Although that doesn’t cover the entirety of the range of fear responses to various stimulus, one is forced to wonder about the panic responses involved in various alien abduction/mad gasser/witch hunt phenomena where a specific fear spreads as a meme acros entire communities of people, some of them not even geographically connected to each other. And, given that those sorts of fears are so clearly analogous to other kinds of mass culture hysteria like occurs with racism or politico-demoniac panics like the historical yellow peril or red scare, if we will soon have the technology to beat back particular kinds of fears, to what extent will each of us have a social responsiblility to attempt to defeat our own fear responses in order to further the cause of rationality?