Number of cases campus Landau: 1 (warning level Gelb until 01.02.2021) Action plan

Failures in exposure treatments

Period: Jan 16, 2021 - Jan 16, 2021
Status: laufend

Exposure-based interventions, the most effective treatment option for anxiety disorders, challenge patients´ expectations directly by creating situations where patients can test and modify their expectations. Around 30 per cent of exposure treatments for chronic pain or psychological disorders such as OCD are not effective in the long term. We assume that the persistence of expectations despite exposure experience is due to a process called “immunization”. Participants of an exposure-based pain treatment program may cognitively reappraise the experience which is contradictory to their expectations so that their expectations do not need to be changed. There are two mechanisms underlying immunization: (1) The experience gained in the expectation violation situation is considered as an exception, whereas the general expectation is maintained. (2) The credibility of the experience is questioned in general. We also assume that failure of exposure treatments might be due to disturbed acquisition and extinction during treatment.
We aim at identifying basic difficulties in learning that might lead to failed exposures; comparing different theories on exposure treatment; and investigating the role of immunization in failure of exposure treatment in chronic pain.


This project is a subproject of the Research Training Group (RTG, in German: Graduiertenkolleg GRK 2271 "Maintenance vs. change of expectations in the context of expectation violations" funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG). The overall aim of the RTG is to explore why and when organisms (humans and animals) modify or maintain generalized expectations in the face of adverse evidence. Fourteen PhD projects include a series of questions related to persistence of or change in expectancies in a variety of research areas (including clinical psychology, educational psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology and biological psychology). Sixteen Researchers ("Principal Investigators"), most of them from Marburg's Department of Psychology, participate in the RTG. More information about the researchers, the research program and the qualification program can be found on this website: .

Project partner

Prof. Dr. Harald Lachnit, University of Marburg


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; Graduiertenkolleg 2271



Preregistration: Clinical Trials

Rief, W., Glombiewski, J. A., Gollwitzer, M., Schubö, A., Schwarting, R., & Thorwart, A. (2015). Expectancies as core features of mental disorders. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 28(5), 378–385.