Phobias and Size

Are you afraid of spiders or needles? If so, new research suggests you probably perceive them to be larger than they actually are.

Psychologists at Ohio State University asked volunteers who feared spiders to undergo five encounters with live tarantulas and then estimate the size of the spiders after these encounters. They found that the more afraid the study subjects reported being of the spiders, the larger they estimated the spiders’ size.

The authors of the study say the idea that being afraid of spiders causes someone to perceive spiders as larger than they actually are may actually foster that fear and make it even harder to overcome. This is an issue they are studying in hopes of improving treatments for people with various phobias that can interfere with daily life.