An experimental test of stimulus estimation theory, danger and safety with snake phobic stimuli
Wright, Lisa Marie
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The stimulus estimation model (Taylor and Rachman, 1994) asserts that fear overprediction stems from: (a) overprediction of the danger elements of a phobic stimulus, and (b) underprediction of existing safety resources. Using a 2 x 2 factorial design, with danger (high vs. low) and safety (high vs. low) as between-subjects variables, an experimental test of the model was conducted with 25 snake-fearful participants per condition. The four experimental conditions were matched on initial levels of snake fearfulness, as assessed by the Snake Questionnaire (SNAQ). For the 51 participants who demonstrated overprediction of fear, high danger led to reliably more fear overprediction than low danger; and low safety led to reliably more fear overprediction than high safety. The interaction between danger and safety was not statistically significant. The results offer the first convincing experimental support for the stimulus estimation model of fear overprediction.