A new study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders reveals that arachnophobia, or fear of spiders, may make the spiders appear bigger than they actually are.
Researchers from Ohio State University conducted the study on 57 people with arachnophobia who were made to walk towards tarantulas of different sizes over a period of eight weeks. The participants were asked to rate their fears on a scale of 0-100 as they moved towards the tarantulas and were then asked to move the tarantulas around with an eight foot stick.
The participants were also asked to draw a line on a page, representing how long they thought the tarantulas were. The researchers found that those who feared spiders the most had represented them to be bigger than they actually were.
"Given that our informal observations suggested the occurrence of the bias, we were not surprised that we found evidence for it in our study. However, it is fair to say that we were very surprised by the magnitude of the bias. We have seen highly fearful participants draw lines that are two to three times as long as the actual spider", lead researcher Michael Vasey said.