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


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.

Download full-text


Available from: Tobias Pflugshaupt, Sep 29, 2014
  • Source
    • "Vigilance was considered a learned phenomenon in which previous experience determines the current attention to certain stimuli " . Different studies indicated that the hyper-vigilance is directly related to phobic behavior and avoidance (Pflugshaupt et al., 2005). Dependence on others is characterized by excessive focus on meeting the demands and needs of others at the expense of satisfying their own desires and needs, in order to get love and approval of others. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The paper discusses the relation between the education level, the Hyper-vigilance and the Dependence on others, as cognitive schemes which influence one's life. Having in mind the assumption that the level of education contribute to changes at the cognitive level, including the expectances, the learned cognitive schema and the entire personality, we have assessed the Hyper-vigilance and the Dependence on others in relation to the educational level on a sample of 60 adults, divided in three groups: 20 primary school graduates (8 classes), 20 high-school graduates and 20 university graduates.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Source
    • "Such findings were in line with the vigilance–avoidance hypothesis proposed by Mogg et al. (1987), according to which threat processing is characterised by an initial automatic capture of attention by threatening stimuli, which is rapidly followed by avoidant strategies. Although similar threat avoidance has been found in our and in Pflugshaupt et al.'s (2005) study, results from the two studies are hardly comparable since we did not evaluate eye movements throughout a long time window, but were interested in assessing the time course of rapid cognitive phenomena connected with responses to threat detection. Nonetheless , it would be interesting to evaluate whether the present pattern of results could be replicated in a clinical sample, such as in phobic individuals or in individuals with generalised anxiety disorder. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Mechanisms underlying attentional biases towards threat (ABTs), such as attentional avoidance and difficulty of disengagement, are still unclear. To address this issue, we recorded participants' eye movements during a dot detection task in which threatening or neutral stimuli served as peripheral cues. We evaluated response times (RTs) in trials where participants looked at the central fixation cross (not at the cues), as they were required, and number and duration of (unwanted) fixations towards threatening or neutral cues; in all analyses trait anxiety was treated as a covariate. Difficulty in attentional disengagement (longer RTs) was found when peripheral threatening stimuli were presented for 100 ms. Moreover, we observed significantly shorter (unwanted) fixations on threatening than on neutral peripheral stimuli, compatible with an avoidance bias, for longer presentation times. These findings demonstrate that, independent of trait anxiety levels, disengagement bias occurs without eye movements, whereas eye movements are implied in threat avoidance.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Cognition and Emotion
  • Source
    • "However, the nature of this attention bias (i.e., avoidance) was at odds with numerous studies indicating weight dissatisfied and eating disordered groups show increased attention towards rather than away from stimulus cues salient to their concerns (e.g., Gao et al., 2011, 2012; Rieger et al., 1998; Shafran et al., 2007). Nonetheless, attentional avoidance has been observed in dot probe studies of anxious (e.g., Calvo & Avero, 2005; Garner et al., 2006) and spider phobic (e.g., Pflugshaupt et al., 2005; Rinck & Becker, 2006) individuals, as well as those with chronic pain (e.g., Yang, Jackson, & Chen, 2013). Furthermore, laboratory evidence based on mild threat inductions (e.g., public-speaking tasks; Mansell, Clark, Ehlers, & Chen, 1999) and field research on people living within or outside the range of possible missile attack (Bar-Haim et al., 2010) indicate exposure to threat can manifest avoidance of, rather than vigilance towards threatening information. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This research evaluated information-processing biases related to height dissatisfaction among young Chinese men. In Study 1, 32 highly stature dissatisfied (HSD) men and 36 less stature dissatisfied (LSD) men performed a dot probe task featuring height-related words and neutral words. HSD men were significantly slower than LSD men were in responding to probes that followed short stature words, but the groups did not differ in response speeds to probes that followed tall stature or neutral words. In Study 2, 33 HSD men and 34 LSD men completed an implicit learning task followed by a word recognition task. HSD men recognized significantly more short stature words from the initial task, but recognition accuracy for other word types did not differ between groups. Together, these findings suggest that HSD men are more inclined than LSD men to selectively avoid cues that reflect shortness in stature and to selectively recognize such cues later.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Body Image
Show more