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Title: The Lurking Snake in the Grass: Interference of Snake Stimuli in Visually Taxing Conditions
Authors: Soares, Sandra Cristina 
Keywords: snake detection theory; visual search; perceptual load
Issue Date: 2012
Project: FCT /MCTES/Operational Program of Science and Innovation 2010 and the European Social Funding - grant SFRH/19513/2004 
Serial title, monograph or event: Evolutionary Psychology
Volume: 10
Issue: 2
Abstract: Based on evolutionary considerations, it was hypothesized that humans have been shaped to easily spot snakes in visually cluttered scenes that might otherwise hide camouflaged snakes. This hypothesis was tested in a visual search experiment in which I assessed automatic attention capture to evolutionarily-relevant distractor stimuli (snakes), in comparison with another animal which is also feared but where this fear has a disputed evolutionary origin (spiders), and neutral stimuli (mushrooms). Sixty participants were engaged in a task that involved the detection of a target (a bird) among pictures of fruits. Unexpectedly, on some trials, a snake, a spider, or a mushroom replaced one of the fruits. The question of interest was whether the distracting stimuli slowed the reaction times for finding the target (the bird) to different degrees. Perceptual load of the task was manipulated by increments in the set size (6 or 12 items) on different trials. The findings showed that snake stimuli were processed preferentially, particularly under conditions where attentional resources were depleted, which reinforced the role of this evolutionarily-relevant stimulus in accessing the visual system (Isbell, 2009).
ISSN: 1474-7049
DOI: 10.1177/147470491201000202
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D IBILI - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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