Hypervigilance-avoidance pattern in spider phobia.

Perception and Eye Movement Laboratory, Departments of Neurology and Clinical Research, University of Berne, Inselspital, Freiburgstrasse 10, 3010 Berne, Switzerland.
Journal of Anxiety Disorders (Impact Factor: 2.96). 02/2005; 19(1):105-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2003.12.002
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cognitive-motivational theories of phobias propose that patients' behavior is characterized by a hypervigilance-avoidance pattern. This implies that phobics initially direct their attention towards fear-relevant stimuli, followed by avoidance that is thought to prevent objective evaluation and habituation. However, previous experiments with highly anxious individuals confirmed initial hypervigilance and yet failed to show subsequent avoidance. In the present study, we administered a visual task in spider phobics and controls, requiring participants to search for spiders. Analyzing eye movements during visual exploration allowed the examination of spatial as well as temporal aspects of phobic behavior. Confirming the hypervigilance-avoidance hypothesis as a whole, our results showed that, relative to controls, phobics detected spiders faster, fixated closer to spiders during the initial search phase and fixated further from spiders subsequently.


Available from: Tobias Pflugshaupt, Sep 29, 2014
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