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Teachman, B. A., Stefanucci, J. K., Clerkin, E. M., Cody, M. W., & Proffitt, D. R. (2008). A new mode of fear expression: Perceptual bias in height fear. Emotion, 8, 296-301.

Emotion and psychopathology researchers have described the fear response as consisting of four main components—subjective affect, physiology, cognition, and behavior. The current study provides evidence for an additional component in the domain of height fear (perception) and shows that it is distinct from measures of cognitive processing. Individuals High (N  35) and Low (N  36) in acrophobic symptoms looked over a two-story balcony ledge and estimated its vertical extent using a direct height estimation task (visual matching), and an indirect task (size estimation); the latter task seems to exhibit little influence from cognitive factors. In addition, implicit and explicit measures of cognitive processing were obtained. Results indicated that, as expected, the High Fear group showed greater relative, implicit height fear associations and explicit threat cognitions. Of primary interest, the High (compared to Low) Fear group estimated the vertical extent to be higher, and judged target sizes to be greater, even when controlling for the cognitive bias measures. These results suggest that emotional factors such as fear are related to perception.

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