The influence of animal fear on attentional capture by fear-relevant animal stimuli in children
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The present study demonstrated that pictures of fear-relevant animals, snakes and spiders, presented among backgrounds of other animal stimuli captured attention and interfered in the detection of a neutral target to the same extent in a large sample of unselected children (N=81). Moreover, detection of a neutral target animal was slowed more in the presence of a feared fear-relevant distracter, e.g., a snake for snake fearful children, than in the presence of a not feared fear-relevant distracter, e.g., a spider for snake fearful children. These results indicate attentional capture by phylogenetically fear-relevant animal stimuli in children and the selective enhancement of this effect by fear of these animals. These findings are consistent with current models of preferential processing of phylogenetically prepared threat stimuli and with cognitive models of anxiety that propose an enhancing effect of fear in the processing of fear-related stimuli. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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