Guns N` Snakes: How Selective is the Fear Module?
Keywords:Fear module, visual search task, reaction time, snakes, guns
AbstractReaction time to different types of stimuli within the visual search task was examined to test the evolutionary hypothesis on the input information selectivity of the fear module. The participants (N = 74) were presented different image matrices, containing dangerous and harmless stimuli, for which they had to determine whether they all belong to the same category or whether there was a discrepant one from a different category. The results are consistent with the basic assumptions of the fear module. Participants reacted faster to dangerous stimuli than to harmless ones, and a faster response rate was found for snakes as evolutionarily dangerous stimuli when compared to similar harmless animals. There was no difference in reaction time to guns as modern dangerous stimuli when compared to similar harmless objects. A comparison of reaction times for snakes and guns showed a generally faster response to gun stimuli, which could indicate a possible interaction of the fear module with social learning processes. The results obtained highlight the importance of stimulus valence for the selectivity of the fear module, while further studies are needed to determine specific perceptual factors that lead to faster detection and reaction time to specific types of stimuli.