Buetti S, Juan E, Kerzel D, 2010, "Reaching in the presence of threatening stimuli: Evidence for automatic avoidance" Perception 39 ECVP Abstract Supplement, page 183
Reaching in the presence of threatening stimuli: Evidence for automatic avoidance
S Buetti, E Juan, D Kerzel
Anxious persons show dysfunctional threat detection that contributes to develop and maintain their disorders. While several studies confirmed the presence of automatic attention biases toward threat, no study investigated whether anxious disorders are also accompanied by automatic motor biases. In the present study, we investigated response selection and response programming processes of reaching movements in subclinical spider-fearful and non-anxious participants. Reaching responses were performed directly on the screen where stimuli were displayed. Participants had to reach with their index finger a left or right square located below the picture of a butterfly. A distractor (ie, the picture of a dragonfly, beetle or spider) was presented at the opposite location. Reaction times and the initial movement trajectories were evaluated. The results indicated that the two groups of participants had similar reaction times for all the distractors. On the other hand, we observed a modulation of response trajectories specific to threat: The initial movement trajectories of spider-fearful participants strongly deviated away from spiders. We suggest that this automatic motor avoidance of threat is the consequence of strong inhibitory processes that overcame activation at the threat location. The relationship between attention and motor biases are discussed in terms of models of motor control.
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