Snake crawling on a person may be more than he seems. Fear can distort the perception of approaching objects, causing underestimate the distance to the threat. These are the findings of a study published in the journal Current Biology.
"Our results suggest that emotion and perception are not completely separable in the mind — says psychologist at Emory University (GA), co-author of the study. — Fear can affect the very foundations of how we perceive the world around us. These results are important for understanding clinical phobias. "
Lorenzo led the research with Matthew Longo, a psychologist from Birkbeck College (University of London).
Usually a person is well developed as understanding when approaching him to steal up close, and the reaction and as a dodge or block object if necessary. The researchers conducted an experiment to test the effect of fear on the accuracy of these skills.
Participants in the study were evaluated time to "touch" them images on a computer screen. Pictures increased in size for a second, simulating the approach of an object. Each subject had to press a button at a time when the displayed object could "encounter" with him.
Participants tended to underestimate the time before approaching frightening objects, such as a snake or a spider. If nestrashnye objects, such as a rabbit or a butterfly approximation such was not underestimated.
"We have shown that the type of an object affects the perception of its approach. If we are afraid of something, we believe that it will reach us faster, "- says Longo.
"The most amazing thing — adds Lorenzo — that we can predict how the subject closer contact time opredeyaya the level of fear of the object. The more a person is afraid, for example, spiders, the more it "moves the" time approaches. "
While we can not say exactly what the cause of this underestimation. Perhaps we feel that terrible object is moving faster than it really is. Perhaps the fear of increasing the size of "personal space", "which is usually limited to a length of arm's length.
"We plan to determine the true cause for further research. This will allow us to shed light on the mechanics of basic aspects of spatial perception and the processes that underlie specific phobias "- said Lorenzo.