The current study explored the role of valence and self-relevance in size estimation of neutral and aversive animals. In Experiment 1, participants who were highly fearful of spiders and participants with low fear of spiders rated the size and unpleasantness of spiders and other neutral animals (birds and butterflies). We found that although individuals with both high and low fear of spiders rated spiders as highly unpleasant, only the highly fearful participants rated spiders as larger than butterflies. Experiment 2 included additional pictures of wasps (not self-relevant, but unpleasant) and beetles. The results of this experiment replicated those of Experiment 1 and showed a similar bias in size estimation for beetles, but not for wasps. Mediation analysis revealed that in the high-fear group both relevance and valence influenced perceived size, whereas in the low-fear group only valence affected perceived size. These findings suggest that the effect of highly relevant stimuli on size perception is both direct and mediated by valence.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC Grant Agreement 295644 to AH.
© 2016 The Authors
- Individual differences
- Size estimation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (all)
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology