Memory for threat-relevant and threat-irrelevant cues in spider phobics

I. Wessel, H Merckelbach, Ineke Wessel

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44 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated whether confronting phobic individuals with their feared object provides a laboratory approach for studying the effects of high emotion levels on memory for central (threat-relevant) and peripheral (threat-irrelevant) information. Twenty-two spider-phobic and 24 low-fear control subjects were exposed to one of two versions of a bulletin board to which central (spiders) and peripheral (babies and pens) stimuli were attached. During exposure to the stimuli, spider phobics displayed an increase in electrodermal activity. The results of a subsequent free-recall indicate that relative to controls, spider phobics showed enhanced memory for central information and impaired memory for peripheral information. The free-recall data are consistent with an interpretation in terms of the attentional-narrowing hypothesis of emotional memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalCognition & Emotion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan-1998
Externally publishedYes



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