The relationship between self-reported animal fear and ERP modulation: Evidence for enhanced processing and fear of harmless invertebrates in snake- and spider-fearful individuals
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The present study used ERPs to compare processing of fear-relevant (FR) animals (snakes and spiders) and non-fear-relevant (NFR) animals similar in appearance (worms and beetles). EEG was recorded from 18 undergraduate participants (10 females) as they completed two animal-viewing tasks that required simple categorization decisions. Participants were divided on a post hoc basis into low snake/spider fear and high snake/spider fear groups. Overall, FR animals were rated higher on fear and elicited a larger LPC. However, individual differences qualified these effects. Participants in the low fear group showed clear differentiation between FR and NFR animals on subjective ratings of fear and LPC modulation. In contrast, participants in the high fear group did not show such differentiation between FR and NFR animals. These findings suggest that the salience of feared-FR animals may generalize on both a behavioural and electro-cortical level to other animals of similar appearance but of a non-harmful nature.
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