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Emotion. 2011 Oct;11(5):1080-90. doi: 10.1037/a0023995.

Psychosocial resources, threat, and the perception of distance and height: support for the resources and perception model.

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Department of Psychology, Rutgers University at Newark, Smith Hall, 101 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.


Threatening things are often perceptually exaggerated, such that they appear higher, closer, of greater duration, or more intense than they actually are. According to the Resources and Perception Model (RPM) psychosocial resources can prevent this exaggeration, leading to more accurate perception. Two studies tested RPM. Study 1 showed that the perceived closeness of a threatening object (a live tarantula) but not an innocuous object (a cat toy) was moderated by induced self-worth. Further, the more self-worth that participants experienced, the less close the tarantula appeared to them. Study 2 showed that greater levels of self-esteem reduced perceived height, but only among participants prevented from holding a protective handrail while looking down. Together, these studies confirm that resources moderate the physical perception of both distance and height, that resources moderate perception of threats but not nonthreats, that different resources have similar moderating effects, and that psychosocial resources can supplant physical resources.

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