Spiders Crawl Easily Through the Bottleneck: Visual Working Memory for Negative Stimuli

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Abstract

The special status of spiders in the attentional bottleneck and visual working memory (VWM) was studied. 23 spider-fearfuls (SF) and 23 non-anxious controls (NACs) participated in a serial VWM-task. Each trial showed a 4 × 4 matrix of images and 5 of these were subsequently cued for 150 ms each. Afterwards, one of the 16 displayed images was hidden and probed. The spider image was included in the string of 5 cued images, among the 11 uncued items, or not at all. For both groups, memory was better for cued spiders than for other cued items. SFs also showed improved memory for uncued spiders. The relevance of the results for theories of attention and cognitive models of phobias are discussed.

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