Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Potentially dangerous stimuli are important contenders for the capture of visual-spatial attention, and it has been suggested that an evolved fear module is preferentially activated by stimuli that are fear relevant in a phylogenetic sense (e.g., snakes, spiders, angry faces). In this study, a visual search task was used to test this hypothesis by directly contrasting phylogenetically (snakes) and ontogenetically (guns) fear-relevant stimuli. Results showed that the modern threat was detected as efficiently as the more ancient threat. Thus, both guns and snakes attracted attention more effectively than neutral stimuli (flowers, mushrooms, and toasters). These results support a threat superiority effect but not one that is preferentially accessed by threat-related stimuli of phylogenetic origin. The results are consistent with the view that faster detection of threat in visual search tasks may be more accurately characterized as relevance superiority effects rather than as threat superiority effects.

Original publication

DOI

10.1037/1528-3542.7.4.691

Type

Journal article

Journal

Emotion

Publication Date

11/2007

Volume

7

Pages

691 - 696

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Animals, Attention, Fear, Female, Firearms, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Reaction Time, Signal Detection, Psychological, Snakes, Visual Perception