To look or not to look at threat? Scanpath differences within a group of spider phobics

Pflugshaupt, Tobias; Mosimann, Urs P; Schmitt, Wolfgang J; von Wartburg, Roman; Wurtz, Pascal; Lüthi, Mathias; Nyffeler, Thomas; Hess, Christian W; Müri, René M (2006). To look or not to look at threat? Scanpath differences within a group of spider phobics. Journal of anxiety disorders, 21(3), pp. 353-366. Amsterdam: Elsevier 10.1016/j.janxdis.2006.05.005

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Predicting the behavior of phobic patients in a confrontational situation is challenging. While avoidance as a major clinical component of phobias suggests that patients orient away from threat, findings based on cognitive paradigms indicate an attentional bias towards threat. Here we present eye movement data from 21 spider phobics and 21 control subjects, based on 3 basic oculomotor tasks and a visual exploration task that included close-up views of spiders. Relative to the control group, patients showed accelerated reflexive saccades in one of the basic oculomotor tasks, while the fear-relevant exploration task evoked a general slowing in their scanning behavior and pronounced oculomotor avoidance. However, this avoidance strongly varied within the patient group and was not associated with the scores from spider avoidance-sensitive questionnaire scales. We suggest that variation of oculomotor avoidance between phobics reflects different strategies of how they cope with threat in confrontational situations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology

UniBE Contributor:

Pflugshaupt, Tobias; von Wartburg, Roman; Wurtz, Pascal; Lüthi Steinheimer, Mathias; Nyffeler, Thomas; Hess, Christian Walter and Müri, René Martin










Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:46

Last Modified:

08 Jun 2016 10:39

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Web of Science ID:


URI: (FactScience: 1456)

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