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What is so frightening about spiders? Self‐rated and self‐disclosed impact of different characteristics and associations with phobia symptoms
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Clinical psychology. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Stockholm County Council, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3061-501X
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Clinical psychology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Clinical psychology.
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2019 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, ISSN 0036-5564, E-ISSN 1467-9450, Vol. 60, no 1, p. 1-6Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Spider phobia is a common and impairing mental disorder, yet little is known about what characteristics of spiders that spider phobic individuals find frightening. Using screening data from a clinical trial, we explored which characteristics that spider‐fearful individuals (n = 194) rated as having the greatest impact on fear, used factor analysis to group specific characteristics, and explored linear associations with self‐reported phobia symptoms. Second, a guided text‐mining approach was used to extract the most common words in free‐text responses to the question: “What is it about spiders that you find frightening?” Both analysis types suggested that movement‐related characteristics of spiders were the most important, followed by appearance characteristics. There were, however, no linear associations with degree of phobia symptoms. Our findings reveal the importance of targeting movement‐related fears in in‐vivo exposure therapy for spider phobia and using realistically animated spider stimuli in computer‐based experimental paradigms and clinical interventions such as Virtual Reality exposure therapy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 60, no 1, p. 1-6
Keywords [en]
spider, phobia, text mining, biolocomotion, virtual reality
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-164594DOI: 10.1111/sjop.12508ISI: 000459578300001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-164594DiVA, id: diva2:1279753
Available from: 2019-01-17 Created: 2019-01-17 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Virtual reality exposure therapy for spider phobia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Virtual reality exposure therapy for spider phobia
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Exposure therapy for specific phobia involving systematic and repeated presentation of an aversive stimuli or situation is a highly effective treatment for reducing fear and anxiety. Dissemination of this evidence-based treatment has proved challenging, however, and for over 20 years an alternative method of delivery using virtual reality technology has been explored with positive results. This thesis consists of three empirical studies examining a new generation of virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) that by using automation, inexpensive hardware, and downloadable software aims to ensure that a highly efficacious exposure therapy can be made available to almost anyone. Study I evaluated the efficacy of this novel automated VRET for spider phobia as compared to gold-standard in-vivo one-session treatment (OST) using a randomized non-inferiority design. Results indicated that large effect size reductions in self-reported fear were evident at post-assessment in both treatments and the automated VRET was not inferior to OST at 3- and 12-months follow-up according to behavioral approach test, but was significantly worse until 12-month follow-up. No significant difference was noted on a questionnaire measuring negative effects of treatment. Study II conducted a process measure evaluation of patient alliance towards the virtual therapist used in the VRET treatment with a purpose-built questionnaire entitled the Virtual Therapist Alliance Scale (VTAS). Exploratory factor analysis indicated a sound two-factor solution composed of a primary task, goal and co-presence factor and a secondary bond and empathy factor. Psychometric evaluation of the VTAS suggested good internal consistency, and a moderate correlation between the VTAS and change in self-reported fear over follow-up. Study III assessed what individuals with a fear of spiders found most frightening about spiders. Both quantitative ratings and qualitative descriptions indicated that movement characteristics were reported as most fear provoking and to a lesser extent appearance characteristics, however factor analysis of scores in these categories did not find a correlation with participant baseline self-reported fear. Overall, the above findings suggest that VRET is a potential alternative to OST for the treatment of spider phobia also with respect to therapist alliance, and spider movement characteristics should be emphasized in future VRET treatments.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2020. p. 114
Keywords
Specific phobia, spider phobia, spider, fear, anxiety, virtual reality, exposure therapy, automated, alliance, psychometric, factor analysis, virtual therapist, RCT, randomized, non-inferiority, clinical trial, dissemination, 12-month follow-up
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-180746 (URN)978-91-7911-114-4 (ISBN)978-91-7911-115-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-05-29, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
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Available from: 2020-05-06 Created: 2020-04-08 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved

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Lindner, PhilipMiloff, AlexanderReuterskiöld, LenaCarlbring, Per

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