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

  • Julian BasanovicEmail author
  • Laurence Dean
  • John H. Riskind
  • Colin MacLeod
Brief Report


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.


Perception 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.

Ethical Approval

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

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

10608_2018_9970_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (480 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 480 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion, School of Psychological ScienceThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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