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J Anxiety Disord. 2009 May;23(4):541-5. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2008.11.002. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

Attentional bias to moving spiders in spider fearful individuals.

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Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


We investigated if an attentional bias for spiders in spider fearful individuals (SFs) can also be found for moving spiders, rather than static images. In Study 1, 28 SFs and 33 non-anxious controls (NACs) participated in a modified version of the dot probe paradigm: they had to react to a probe that appeared either in the next, previous, or side position of a spider's or a wheel's path. 24 SFs and 29 NACs participated in Study 2, in which a fourth, highly predictable, probe position was added. We expected that moving spiders would capture the attention of SFs. In addition, we tested whether SFs try to predict the movement of the spider to make it less threatening. As expected, SFs showed an attentional bias towards moving spiders. However, both groups reacted fastest to unpredictable movements, indicating that SFs and NACs alike anticipate unpredictable spider movements.

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