Of Snakes and Flowers: Does Preferential Detection of Pictures of Fear-Relevant Animals in Visual Search Reflect on Fear-Relevance?

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Previous research in visual search indicates that animal fear-relevant deviants, snakes/spiders, are found faster among non fear-relevant backgrounds, flowers/mushrooms, than vice versa. Moreover, deviant absence was indicated faster among snakes/spiders and detection time for flower/mushroom deviants, but not for snake/spider deviants, increased in larger arrays. The current research indicates that the latter 2 results do not reflect on fear-relevance, but are found only with flower/mushroom controls. These findings may reflect on factors such as background homogeneity, deviant homogeneity, or background-deviant similarity. The current research removes contradictions between previous studies that used animal and social fear-relevant stimuli and indicates that apparent search advantages for fear-relevant deviants seem likely to reflect on delayed attentional disengagement from fear-relevance on control trials.

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