In an fMRI study, effects of contingency awareness on conditioned responses were assessed in three groups comprising 118 subjects. A differential fear-conditioning paradigm with visual conditioned stimuli, an electrical unconditioned stimulus and two distractors was applied. The instructed aware group was informed about the contingencies, whereas the distractors prevented contingency detection in the unaware group. The third group (learned aware) was not informed about the contingencies, but learned them despite the distractors. Main effects of contingency awareness on conditioned responses emerged in several brain structures. Post hoc tests revealed differential dorsal anterior cingulate, insula and ventral striatum responses in aware conditioning only, whereas the amygdala was activated independent of contingency awareness. Differential responses of the hippocampus were specifically observed in learned aware subjects, indicating a role in the development of contingency awareness. The orbitofrontal cortex showed varying response patterns: lateral structures showed higher responses in instructed aware than unaware subjects, the opposite was true for medial parts. Conditioned subjective and electrodermal responses emerged only in the two aware groups. These results confirm the independence of conditioned amygdala responses from contingency awareness and indicate specific neural circuits for different aspects of fear acquisition in unaware, learned aware and instructed aware subjects.