Expectancy and attention bias to spiders: Dissecting anticipation and allocation processes using ERPs

Elinor Abado, Tatjana Aue, Gilles Pourtois, Hadas Okon-Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current registered report focused on the temporal dynamics of the relationship between expectancy and attention toward threat, to better understand the mechanisms underlying the prioritization of threat detection over expectancy. In the current event-related potentials experiment, a-priori expectancy was manipulated, and attention bias was measured, using a well-validated paradigm. A visual search array was presented, with one of two targets: spiders (threatening) or birds (neutral). A verbal cue stating the likelihood of encountering a target preceded the array, creating congruent and incongruent trials. Following cue presentation, preparatory processes were examined using the contingent negative variation (CNV) component. Following target presentation, two components were measured: early posterior negativity (EPN) and late positive potential (LPP), reflecting early and late stages of natural selective attention toward emotional stimuli, respectively. Behaviorally, spiders were found faster than birds, and congruency effects emerged for both targets. For the CNV, a non-significant trend of more negative amplitudes following spider cues emerged. As expected, EPN and LPP amplitudes were larger for spider targets compared to bird targets. Data-driven, exploratory, topographical analyses revealed different patterns of activation for bird cues compared to spider cues. Furthermore, 400–500 ms post-target, a congruency effect was revealed only for bird targets. Together, these results demonstrate that while expectancy for spider appearance is evident in differential neural preparation, the actual appearance of spider target overrides this expectancy effect and only in later stages of processing does the cueing effect come again into play.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date26 Feb 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Psychophysiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Psychophysiological Research.


  • attention bias in spider fear
  • CNV
  • EPN
  • ERP
  • expectancy bias in spider fear
  • LPP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Expectancy and attention bias to spiders: Dissecting anticipation and allocation processes using ERPs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this