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FEAR - A process influenced by concurrent processing demands
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0011-7770
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Fear is a central aspect in mammalian evolution, prompting escape from and avoidance of threat and dangers. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that we have a well developed system to detect dangers and quickly respond to them. It has been shown that threatening information has an advantage in information processing; it seems to promote a rapid capture of selective attention and puts demand on processing resources. It has been suggested that the elicitation of fear occurs automatically, and that it is independent of and impenetrable to cognition.

The idea with the present research is that fear processing is dependent on all concurrent internal or external processing demands. One visual search study (Study II) and two secondary task studies (Study I & III) have been conducted to investigate if external or internal distraction can interfere with fear processing. In order to provoke fear responses, spider or snake fearful individuals have been exposed to pictures of their feared stimulus. The aim of Study II was to investigate if the selective attention to fear stimuli could be influenced by contextual factors, such as the nature of the distracting stimuli in a visual search. Study I and III aimed to investigate manipulation of resources allocated to fear stimuli. In Study I, task demand was used as the manipulation, and in Study III an internal cognitive directive was used. The results from these studies indicate that fear is susceptible to manipulation by both external and internal means. By changing circumstances in the surrounding or in the individuals’ internal states, responses to threatening stimuli can be altered. This means that processing of threatening stimuli is influenced by other concurrent processing demands, suggesting that a fear response is not occurring as an isolated and impenetrable process. In an evolutionary perspective, a fear system that is easily triggered but has access to cognitive evaluation at all times ought to be far more flexible, thus creating a better chance for survival than a modular and impenetrable fear system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Östersund: Mid Sweden University , 2013. , 155 p.
Series
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X ; 153
Keyword [en]
Attention, Fear, Performance, Processing resources
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-19011ISBN: 978-91-87103-82-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-19011DiVA: diva2:624030
Public defence
2013-05-31, F234, Campus Östersund, Hus F, Östersund, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-05-31 Created: 2013-05-29 Last updated: 2013-05-31Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The time course of resource allocation in spider fearful participants during fear reactions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The time course of resource allocation in spider fearful participants during fear reactions
2008 (English)In: Cognition & Emotion, ISSN 0269-9931, E-ISSN 1464-0600, Vol. 22, no 7, 1381-1400 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The difference in dynamics of resource allocation to pictures of spiders and pictures of other animals in spider fearful participants was investigated. The tasks of the participants were to respond rapidly and accurately to various probe stimuli superimposed on pictures of different animals. These were supposedly fear-relevant (spiders, snakes, and wolfs) and fear-irrelevant (beetles, turtles, and rabbits). The probes were exposed at different stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) from picture onset to address the dynamics of resource allocation. The results showed a larger allocation of resources to spider pictures than to pictures of other animals and the resource allocation showed differences depending on task and dependent measure.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
US: Psychology Press, 2008
Keyword
Resource allocation, Attention, Fear
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-3453 (URN)10.1080/02699930701799603 (DOI)000260052900009 ()2-s2.0-54349095046 (Scopus ID)3505 (Local ID)3505 (Archive number)3505 (OAI)
Note
VR-PsychologyAvailable from: 2008-11-30 Created: 2008-11-12 Last updated: 2013-05-31Bibliographically approved
2. The effect of using different distractor sets in visual search with spiders and snakes on spider-sensitive and non-fearful participants.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The effect of using different distractor sets in visual search with spiders and snakes on spider-sensitive and non-fearful participants.
2013 (English)In: Swiss Journal of Psychology, ISSN 1421-0185, E-ISSN 1662-0879, Vol. 72, no 4, 171-179 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In two visual search experiments, the impact of distractor sets on fear relevant stimuli was investigated.  A search set with spiders, snakes, flowers, and mushrooms was compared to a search set with spiders, snakes, rabbits, and turtles. Speeded responses to spider and snake targets were found when flowers and mushrooms served as distractors, but no such effect occurred with rabbit and turtle distractors. In Experiment 2, spider sensitive individuals were compared to non-fearful individuals. Spider sensitive individuals responded faster to spider targets than did non-fearful individuals, but only in the set with flowers and mushrooms.  When using rabbit and turtle distractors, spider sensitive individuals did not show any speeded responses to their feared animal. These results indicate that behavioural expressions of the visual search task depends not only on the individual’s relationship to the stimuli included in a search set, but also on the context in which feared or fear relevant objects are presented.

Keyword
Visual search, Spider sensitive participants, Distractor dependency, fear relevance
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-19008 (URN)10.1024/1421-0185/a000111 (DOI)000324375400001 ()2-s2.0-84885063782 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2013-05-29 Created: 2013-05-29 Last updated: 2017-01-16Bibliographically approved
3. Concurrent cognitive demands influence allocation of attention resources during fear processing.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Concurrent cognitive demands influence allocation of attention resources during fear processing.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Influences of a concurrent cognitive demand on allocation of attentional resources and physiological responses to threatening stimuli was investigated. In two secondary task experiments, pictures of fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant stimuli (Experiment 1), as well as feared and non-feared stimuli (Experiment 2), were used as backgrounds in a discrimination task. The cognitive manipulation was provided by a constraint, induced with a threat of punishment motivating participants to respond quick and accurately. The control condition imposed no such constraint. Results showed a larger allocation of attentional resources for both fear-relevant and feared stimuli. More importantly, it was also shown that resources allocated to threatening stimuli could be manipulated by a concurrent cognitive demand. However, both response accuracy and physiological reactions persisted the manipulation when a feared versus a non-feared animal was shown, indicating that attentional resources can be manipulated by an internal cognitive demand even though a fear reaction occurs.

Keyword
Secondary task, fear, processong resources, heart rate, cognitive control.
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-19009 (URN)
Available from: 2013-05-29 Created: 2013-05-29 Last updated: 2016-12-09Bibliographically approved

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