Fear alters and enhances perception


The more afraid a person is of an object, the larger it appears. So if your thing is zombies, then when you see a zombie, it will appear to be ten feet tall.

This warped perception doesn’t spill over into everyday living, thankfully. But it does play a role when some phobias prevent a person from taking proactive care of themselves. For instance, people afraid of needles are not going to easily get medical attention if they think they will be assaulted by a foot long instrument of terror.

More effective treatments for phobias can be created if doctors understand this perception disparity. For a new study, participants who suffered from arachnophobia (spiders) were asked to endure five encounters with the eight legged creepies. Super creepies in fact since these spiders were tarantulas. After participants survived the experience they were asked to estimate the size of the spiders and their level of fear. As fear rose, so did the size of spider.

“If one is afraid of spiders, and by virtue of being afraid of spiders one tends to perceive spiders as bigger than they really are, that may feed the fear, foster that fear, and make it difficult to overcome,” said Michael Vasey, professor psychology at Ohio State University and lead author.

“We already knew fear and anxiety alter thought about the feared thing. For example, the feared outcome is interpreted as being more likely than it really is. But this study shows that even perception is altered by fear. In this case, the feared spider is seen as being bigger. And that may serve as a maintaining factor for the fear,” concluded Vasey.
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Anxiety Disorders


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