Features of threatening stimuli are proposed to be processed fast and automatically, as they call for immediate attention. Phobic patients typically exhibit these attentional biases for stimuli that are relevant for their particular type of fear. In the present study, it was examined whether a change detection paradigm can be used to study attentional bias for fear-related stimuli. Twenty-five spider-fearful and 25 non-fearful participants were confronted with a series of pictures, in which sometimes a spider gradually appeared, sometimes a fear-irrelevant stimulus appeared, and sometimes no change occurred. Participants had to indicate whenever they noticed a change in the picture. Results showed a pattern of fear-relevant change detection. That is, spider changes were more frequently detected than fear-irrelevant changes, and spider-fearful participants detected more spider changes than non-fearful controls. Further, it was found that high-trait anxious participants did not detect more changes than low-trait anxious participants.

Attentional bias, Change detection, Spider fear, Threat perception, Trait anxiety
dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2005.05.001, hdl.handle.net/1765/67232
Journal of Anxiety Disorders
Department of Psychology

Mayer, B.N, Muris, P.E.H.M, de Vogel, L, Nojoredjo, I, & Merckelbach, H. (2006). Fear-relevant change detection in spider-fearful and non-fearful participants. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 20(4), 510–519. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2005.05.001