High Spider-Fearful and Low Spider-Fearful Individuals Differentially Perceive the Speed of Approaching, but not Receding, Spider Stimuli
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.
KeywordsPerception Fear Looming Cognition Emotion Spider-fear
This study was funded by Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship: FL170100167 and Australian Research Council Discovery Project: DP170104533.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Julian Basanovic, Laurence Dean, John H. Riskind and Colin MacLeod declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
- Gibson, J. J. (1958). Visually controlled locomotion and visual orientation in animals. British Journal of Psychology, 49(3), 182–194. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1958.tb00656.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Mobbs, D., Yu, R., Rowe, J. B., Eich, H., FeldmanHall, O., & Dalgleish, T. (2010). Neural activity associated with monitoring the oscillating threat value of a tarantula. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(47), 20582–20586. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1009076107.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Riskind, J. H., & Maddux, J. E. (1994). Loomingness and the fear of AIDS: Perceptions of motion and menace. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24(5), 432–442. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.1994.tb00591.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Riskind, J. H., Wheeler, D. J., & Picerno, M. R. (1997b). Using mental imagery with subclinical OCD to “freeze” contamination in its place: Evidence for looming vulnerability theory. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35(8), 757–768. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-7967(97)00023-5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar