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05-05-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2017

Psychological Research 4/2017

Multisensory aversive stimuli differentially modulate negative feelings in near and far space

Psychological Research > Uitgave 4/2017
Marine Taffou, Jan Ondřej, Carol O’Sullivan, Olivier Warusfel, Stéphanie Dubal, Isabelle Viaud-Delmon


Affect, space, and multisensory integration are processes that are closely linked. However, it is unclear whether the spatial location of emotional stimuli interacts with multisensory presentation to influence the emotional experience they induce in the perceiver. In this study, we used the unique advantages of virtual reality techniques to present potentially aversive crowd stimuli embedded in a natural context and to control their display in terms of sensory and spatial presentation. Individuals high in crowdphobic fear navigated in an auditory–visual virtual environment, in which they encountered virtual crowds presented through the visual channel, the auditory channel, or both. They reported the intensity of their negative emotional experience at a far distance and at a close distance from the crowd stimuli. Whereas auditory–visual presentation of close feared stimuli amplified negative feelings, auditory–visual presentation of distant feared stimuli did not amplify negative feelings. This suggests that spatial closeness allows multisensory processes to modulate the intensity of the emotional experience induced by aversive stimuli. Nevertheless, the specific role of auditory stimulation must be investigated to better understand this interaction between multisensory, affective, and spatial representation processes. This phenomenon may serve the implementation of defensive behaviors in response to aversive stimuli that are in position to threaten an individual’s feeling of security.

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