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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Jun 2024 - 21 Jun 2024

2024 Jun 03

Clin Psychol Rev



The influence of threat on visuospatial perception, affordances, and protective behaviour: A systematic review and meta-analysis.


MacIntyre E, Pinto E, Mouatt B, Henry ML, Lamb C, Braithwaite FA, Meulders A, Stanton TR


Perception has been conceptualised as an active and adaptive process, based upon incoming sensory inputs, which are modified by top-down factors such as cognitions. Visuospatial perception is thought to be scaled based on threat, with highly threatening objects or contexts visually inflated to promote escape or avoidance behaviours. This meta-analytical systematic review quantified the effect and evidence quality of threat-evoked visuospatial scaling, as well as how visuospatial scaling relates to affordances (perceived action capabilities) and behavioural avoidance/escape outcomes. Databases and grey literature were systematically searched inclusive to 10/04/24. Studies were assessed with a customised Risk of Bias form and meta-analysis was performed using a random-effects model. 12,354 records were identified. Of these, 49 experiments (n = 3027) were included in the review. There was consistent evidence that threat the of height influenced contextual perception (g = 0.66, 95% CI: 0.45, 0.88) and affordances (g = -0.43, 95% CI: -0.84, -0.03). Threatening objects were viewed as larger (g = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.26, 1.26) and as closer (g = 0.30, 95% CI: 0.17, 0.42). Bodily threat (pain) yielded conflicting effects on visuospatial perception/affordances. We conclude that threat may influence visuospatial perception and affordances. However, since behavioural measures were poorly reported, their relationship with visuospatial perception/affordances remains elusive.