September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Claustrophobic Fear and Compression of Visual Space
Author Affiliations
  • Samuel Hunley
    Psychology Department, Emory University, United States
  • Eugene Park
    Psychology Department, Emory University, United States
  • Matthew Longo
    Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Stella Lourenco
    Psychology Department, Emory University, United States
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 1074. doi:
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      Samuel Hunley, Eugene Park, Matthew Longo, Stella Lourenco; Claustrophobic Fear and Compression of Visual Space. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1074.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Psychologists have long noted perceptual distortions associated with fear (e.g., Baddeley, 1972; Keinan, 1987). More recently, researchers have reported that participants high in acrophobic fear (i.e., fear of heights) show greater overestimation of vertical extents compared to participants low in acrophobic fear (e.g., Teachman et al. 2008; Stefanucci & Proffitt, 2009). In our study, we examined individual differences in trait claustrophobic fear (i.e., fear of enclosed or restrictive situations) in relation to horizontal distance perception. In Experiment 1, participants estimated a single horizontal extent using multiple means of estimation. Afterwards, participants completed the claustrophobia questionnaire (CLQ; Radomsky et al., 2001) and other questionnaires to control for general fear (i.e., acrophobia) and anxiety (i.e., agoraphobia). Participants’ consistently underestimated egocentric distance when using verbal report, t(39) = -2.01, p < .05. Furthermore, a multiple regression analysis revealed that the degree of underestimation was predicted by claustrophobic fear (b = -.61, t = -3.09, p = .004; total R2 = .239), even when accounting for general fear (b = .024, t = 0.14 p > .8) and anxiety (b = .309, t = 1.74, p > .09). In Experiment 2, participants estimated multiple distances using visual matching. We fit power functions to these judgments to explicitly model compression of visual space. Higher reported claustrophobic fear predicted greater compression of visual space (i.e., smaller power function exponents; b = -.518, t = -3.02, p = .006; total R2 = .206), even when accounting for general fear (b = .007, t = 0.08, p > .9) and anxiety (b = .184, t = 1.38, p > .2). Taken together, these findings suggest that higher claustrophobic fear is associated with an exaggeration of a normative bias in horizontal distance perception—namely, the compression of visual space.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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