Spiders Look Bigger If You’re Afraid of Them

Posted on February 25, 2016

Photo: flickr

"We found that although individuals with both high and low arachnophobia rated spiders as highly unpleasant, only the highly fearful participants overestimated the spider size," Tali Leibovich, a researcher in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Israel, said in a statement.

The idea for the study came from a real-life experience, the researchers said. One day, Noga Cohen, a graduate student of clinical-neuropsychology at BGU, noticed a spider crawling along. Leibovich, who has arachnophobia, asked Cohen to get rid of the "big" spider. Cohen thought the request strange, especially because she thought the spider looked small, she said in the statement.

So, the researchers devised an experiment to figure out whether arachnophobia influences people's perceptions of spiders. The scientists included only women in the test, "due to the higher probability of women to suffer from spider-phobia compared to men," the researchers wrote in the study.

Overall, every student found pictures of spiders unpleasant. However, only students in the fearful group overestimated the size of the spiders compared with the butterflies, according to the study.

"This study also raises more questions such as: Is it fear that triggers size disturbance, or maybe the size disturbance is what causes fear in the first place?" Leibovich said. "Future studies that attempt to answer such questions can be used as a basis for developing treatments for different phobias


Source material from Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Israel