Some animal specific fears are more specific than others: Evidence from attention and emotion measures

S C Soares, F Esteves, D Lundqvist, A Öhman: Some animal specific fears are more specific than others: Evidence from attention and emotion measures. In: Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47 (12), pp. 1032-1042, 2009, ISSN: 00057967.

Abstract

Using a visual search methodology we investigated the effect of feared animal stimuli on attention. Our results confirmed the important role of emotion on attention. All participants detected fear-relevant stimuli (snakes and spiders) faster than neutral (mushrooms) ones against a background of fruits. In addition, spider fearful participants were sensitized specifically to detect their feared stimulus (spiders), compared to their fear-relevant but non-feared (snakes) and neutral stimuli. However, for participants fearful of snakes there was no significant difference in detection latencies between the feared (snakes) and the fear-relevant but non-feared animal stimuli (spiders). The results from the attention task were mirrored in the emotional ratings, which showed that spider fear was highly specific, whereas snake fear was associated with a more generalized enhanced evaluation of all negative stimuli.