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You see what you fear: Spiders gain preferential access to conscious perception in spider-phobic patients

By Antje B. M. Gerdes and Georg W. Alpers


In phobic individuals, behavioral responses to phobia-related cues are facilitated and brain responses are augmented. It has rarely been investigated whether this preferential processing is accompanied by an altered conscious perception of phobia-related cues. We used binocular rivalry to investigate conscious perception of phobia-related cues in phobic individuals. 21 spider-phobic patients and 20 non-anxious control participants viewed pictures of spiders or flowers, each paired with a neutral pattern under conditions of binocular rivalry. Spider-phobic patients more often reported that they saw spider pictures as the first percept, and the total duration of seeing spider percepts was significantly longer in patients than in non-anxious participants. A second experiment was conducted to rule out that these differences were caused by different response criteria. Results support the validity of self-report in Experiment 1. In sum, predominance of phobia-related cues in binocular rivalry provides evidence that phobia-related cues gain preferential access to visual awareness in phobic individuals

Topics: 150 Psychologie
Publisher: 'Textrum, Ltd.'
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.5127/jep.033212
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