What You See is Not What You Get: The Influence of Approach and Escape Motivation on Visual Perception and Behavior in Spider-fearful Individuals
Type of Degreedissertation
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The present study examined the influence of approach and escape motivation on visual perception, and whether these perceptions affect action responses in a direction congruent with these respective motivations, by comparing thirsty and quenched individuals (Experiment 1) as well as spider-fearful and spider-tolerant individuals (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, thirsty individuals perceived a water bottle to be closer than quenched individuals. The closer the water bottle was perceived, the shorter the distance that participants stepped away from the water bottle relative to their baseline. In Experiment 2, spider-fearful individuals perceived a stimulus that evoked threat (tarantula) as physically closer and bigger than stimuli that evoked disgust or a neutral affective signal compared to spider-tolerant individuals. As participants endorsed higher degrees of spider-related fear (on the FSQ and SPQ) and perceived greater levels of threat, they perceived the contained tarantula as closer in egocentric distance and longer in size. The closer and bigger the tarantula was perceived by participants, the longer the distance that they stepped away from it relative to their baseline. This study is the first to demonstrate a linear association between biased visual perception and approach/escape behavior, in which the degree of the bias predicts the extent of the relevant action response. These results suggest that visual perception and action responses are not mutually exclusive processes but rather are interconnected psychological events, which can be partially predicted relationally. Potential implications of this key finding are discussed.