Beyond fear and disgust: the role of (automatic) contamination-related associations in spider phobia
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This study explored the role of threat and contamination-related associations in spider phobia. Treatment-seeking (n = 60) and non-phobic (n = 30) individuals completed threat and disgust-related Implicit Association Tests (IATs). Phobic individuals were assessed before and after one session of 2.5 hrs in vivo exposure. To differentiate actual treatment effects from test-retest effects on the IAT, half of the phobic individuals completed the IAT twice before treatment. Results showed that: 1) threat and contamination associations similarly distinguished between phobic and non-phobic participants on self-reports and IATs; 2) only self-reported threat associations incrementally predicted participants’ overt avoidance behavior next to self-reported global affective associations; 3) self-reported associations were significantly reduced following treatment; 4) IAT-effects showed no significant reduction following treatment, and no evidence was found for an additional treatment-induced change over and above test-retest effects.