It was as big as my head, I swear! Biased spider size estimation in spider phobia

J Anxiety Disord. 2012 Jan;26(1):20-4. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.08.009. Epub 2011 Aug 19.


The current study tested the association between fear and perception in spider phobic individuals (n=57) within the context of a treatment outcome study. Participants completed 5 post-treatment Behavioral Approach Tasks (BATs) in which they encountered a live spider and were asked to provide spider size estimates. Consistent with predictions, results indicated that high levels of fear were associated with magnified perception of phobic stimuli. Specifically, we found a significant positive correlation between size estimates and self-reported fear while encountering spiders. Together with previous findings, these results further support the notion that fear is involved in the encoding and processing of perceptual information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Fear / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Implosive Therapy
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy
  • Size Perception / physiology*
  • Spiders*
  • Young Adult