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Spiders leave no one untouched: Spider pictures increase emotional ERPs beyond arousal and valence
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. (Perception och psykofysik)
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

People with phobias show enhanced amplitudes on emotional event-related potentials (ERPs) to phobic stimuli. Yet, it is unresolved whether there are independent contributions on the emotional ERPs that cannot be explained by ratings of high arousal and negative valence. We recorded ERPs as participants with and without spider phobia viewed spider pictures, highly negative pictures, and neutral pictures. Participants with phobia showed larger amplitudes in the early posterior negativity (EPN) and the early interval of the late positive potential (LPP) to spider than negative pictures. Importantly, participants without phobia also showed larger amplitudes to spider than neutral pictures even though they rated spiders and neutral pictures as equally neutral in valence and equally low in arousal. These findings suggest two effects of spider pictures on attention: One effect of emotion (valence and arousal) that influences only participants with phobia. The other effect influences both participants with and without phobia. We suggest that this is an effect of evolutionary threat. But, because this effect was present in participants with and without phobia, it is unlikely to play a role in the etiology of phobia.

Keyword [en]
attention; phobia; event-related potentia
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83562OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-83562DiVA: diva2:576276
Available from: 2012-12-13 Created: 2012-12-12 Last updated: 2012-12-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Fearful attention: Investigating event-related potentials in spider phobia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fearful attention: Investigating event-related potentials in spider phobia
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Previous studies showed that emotional pictures capture attention. Further, this effect was decreased by manipulating spatial attention. In contrast, studies produced mixed findings for effects of perceptual load on attention to emotional pictures. Emotional pictures can be phobic or nonphobic. Because phobia might be an evolutionary adaption, it is possible that effects of phobic pictures on attention differ from effects of nonphobic emotional pictures. The present thesis aimed at investigating attention in spider phobia. Attention to emotional pictures was operationalized as event-related potentials (ERPs) (P1, early posterior negativity [EPN,] and late positive potential [LPP]). Two research questions were formulated. First, do phobic pictures evoke larger ERPs than what can be expected from arousal and valence? Second, are effects of spatial attention and perceptual load on ERPs the same for phobic and nonphobic emotional pictures? To investigate this, phobic and nonphobic negative pictures were presented to spider phobic and nonphobic participants. To determine effects of spatial attention on ERPs, participants were instructed to divert attention to a single letter that was presented in the periphery. To determine effects of perceptual load on ERPs, participants were instructed to perform a letter discrimination task on one, two, or three letters that were presented in the periphery. Study 1 showed enhanced LPP amplitudes to phobic pictures independent of arousal and valence. Further, this effect was present in both phobic and nonphobic participants. Study 2 showed that there was no effect of perceptual load on LPP to phobic pictures. Study 3 showed that spatial attention reduced LPP amplitudes, and to a similar extent for both phobic and nonphobic pictures. Further, perceptual load did not reduce EPN or LPP amplitudes to either phobic or nonphobic pictures. To conclude, the results suggest that phobic pictures evoke larger ERP amplitudes than nonphobic pictures. Still, ERPs to phobic and nonphobic pictures are moderated similarly by spatial attention and perceptual load.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2012. 48 p.
Keyword
attention, phobia, event-related potential
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83688 (URN)978-91-7447-620-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-01-18, David Magnussonsalen (U31), hus 8, Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2012-12-27 Created: 2012-12-13 Last updated: 2012-12-27Bibliographically approved

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