People Who Fear Spiders Tend to See Them As Bigger

April 5, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. perception / pərˈsɛp ʃən / (n.) – the use of one’s senses to be aware of and understand something
Example: Visual perception refers to using your eyes to take in and understand information from your environment.

2. skewed / skyud / (adj.) – very different from what is true
Example: Prejudice can lead to a skewed opinion about a person.

3. probability /ˌprɒb əˈbɪl ɪ ti / (n.) – the chance of something happening
Example: There is a higher probability of getting dengue in tropical countries.

4. unpleasantness / ʌnˈplɛz ənt nɪs / (n.) – a quality that causes discomfort
Example: People usually don’t like spiders because of their unpleasantness.

5. phobia /ˈfoʊ bi ə/ (n.) – intense and unreasonable fear of something
Example: She did not enjoy the children’s party because she has a phobia of clowns.


Read the text below.
A new study found that people who fear spiders tend to see them as larger than their actual size.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Ben-Gurion [ben-goo-RYAWNUniversity in Israel. They looked at how the perception of spiders can possibly be skewed in people who highly fear them.

The researchers conducted the study with only female participants, because there is a higher probability of arachnophobia [uh-rak-nuh-FOH-bee-uh], or the fear of spiders, in women than in men.

From 80 students asked to rate how much they fear spiders, the researchers picked those whose fear ratings are at the top 20% and bottom 20%. The chosen students were shown spiders and other animals, and were asked to estimate their sizes through a sliding scale, comparing them to either a fly or a lamb. They were also asked to rate the unpleasantness of the animals.

They found that even if most participants found spiders unpleasant, only those who feared them overestimated their size. The researchers conducted another experiment using pictures of other insects like beetles, wasps, and butterflies. The participants also rated wasps as unpleasant, but they did not overestimate the wasps’ size.

The researchers concluded that unpleasantness alone cannot skew perception, and that emotions can influence how people perceive things.

A study in 2009 conducted with people who had a phobia of high places had a similar finding. People who are afraid of heights were found to overestimate vertical distance.

The researchers of both studies said that results may be used in improving phobia treatments. Currently, phobia is treated by gradually and repeatedly exposing people to their fears.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Are you willing to participate in a study that will expose you to something you fear? Why or why not?
·         What do you think are the most effective ways to overcome fears? Discuss.

Discussion B

·         What is the importance of studying about overcoming fear?
·         Despite it being an unpleasant feeling, what do you think can be the importance of fear?

April 5, 2016