Grab it or not? Measuring avoidance of spiders with touchscreen-based hand movements
Number of pages
SourceJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 73, (2021), article 101670
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Background and objectives: Previous studies have shown that humans, particularly those with high levels of spider fear, show automatic avoidance of spiders. However, most tasks used in these studies employ symbolic approach-avoidance movements instead of naturalistic movements. Methods: The current study employed a touchscreen-based approach-avoidance task in which 86 female participants made hand and arm movements that mimic the real-life touching, grasping, and moving of spiders. Using a large touchscreen, they had to reach for pictures of spiders and neutral objects (leaves), touch them, and drag them either away from themselves or towards themselves. To draw attention to stimulus content, pictures of butterflies were used in additional NoGo trials, they required participants to not move their hand. Results: Avoidance of spiders was observed in both the pre-movement times (time to lift the hand from a starting position) and the grabbing times (time to reach the picture), and this avoidance was larger for more spider-fearful participants. The dragging times (time to swipe the picture), however, revealed a relative spider-approach tendency: Compared to leaves, participants were faster to drag spiders closer than to swipe them away. Limitations We discuss potential reasons for this mixed pattern of results, including the low reliability of the dragging times. Conclusions: We recommend the use of touchscreens for the assessment of approach-avoidance tendencies, and we suggest avenues for further research.
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