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05-10-2018 | Brief Report | Uitgave 2/2019

Cognitive Therapy and Research 2/2019

High Spider-Fearful and Low Spider-Fearful Individuals Differentially Perceive the Speed of Approaching, but not Receding, Spider Stimuli

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 2/2019
Julian Basanovic, Laurence Dean, John H. Riskind, Colin MacLeod
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10608-018-9970-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


The looming vulnerability model of fear predicts that high fearful individuals, as compared to low fearful individuals, will display a heightened tendency to perceive feared stimuli as moving disproportionately quickly when such stimuli are approaching, but not when they are receding. Experiments testing this prediction have been compromised by methodological limitations that preclude their ability to determine its validity. The present study employed a novel methodology designed to overcome these limitations to examine whether individuals with heightened levels of spider-fear exhibit this predicted perceptual bias. Two groups of participants who differed in spider-fear completed a perceptual task that presented stimulus pairs comprising spider and butterfly images under two movement conditions. In one condition images displayed approaching movement, while in the other condition images displayed receding movement. Participants were required to indicate which stimulus they perceived to move fastest. As predicted, it was found that participants with heightened spider-fear demonstrated a significantly greater tendency than low spider-fearful participants to perceive the spider stimuli as moving fastest, only when stimuli displayed approaching movement. Implications and avenues for future research are discussed.

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