Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Psychologists closing in on causes of claustrophobic fear

Date:
April 13, 2011
Source:
Emory University
Summary:
We all move around in a protective bubble of "near space," more commonly known as "personal space." But not everyone's bubble is the same size. People who project their personal space too far beyond their bodies, or the norm of arm's reach, are more likely to experience claustrophobic fear, a new study finds. The study is one of the first to focus on the perceptual mechanisms of claustrophobic fear.

We all move around in a protective bubble of "near space," more commonly known as "personal space." But not everyone's bubble is the same size. People who project their personal space too far beyond their bodies, or the norm of arm's reach, are more likely to experience claustrophobic fear, a new study finds.

Related Articles


The study, to be published in the journal Cognition, is one of the first to focus on the perceptual mechanisms of claustrophobic fear.

"We've found that people who are higher in claustrophobic fear have an exaggerated sense of the near space surrounding them," says Emory psychologist Stella Lourenco, who led the research. "At this point, we don't know whether it's the distortion in spatial perception that leads to the fear, or vice versa. Both possibilities are likely."

Everyone experiences claustrophobic fear to some extent, but there is a wide range of individual differences. About 4 percent of people are estimated to suffer from full-blown claustrophobia, which can cause them to have panic attacks when traveling through a tunnel or riding in an elevator. Some people seek medical treatment for the condition.

"Increasing our understanding of the factors that contribute to claustrophobia may help clinicians develop more effective therapies for what can be a highly debilitating fear," says Matthew Longo, one of the study's co-authors and a psychologist at Birkbeck, University of London.

Claustrophobia is often associated with a traumatic experience, such as getting stuck in an elevator for a long period. "However, we know that some people who experience traumatic events in restricted spaces don't develop full-blown claustrophobia," Lourenco says. "That led us to ask whether other factors might be involved. Our results show a clear relation between claustrophobic fear and basic aspects of spatial perception."

Neural and behavioral evidence shows that we treat space that is within arm's reach differently from space that is farther away. "It makes adaptive sense to be more aware of things that are closer to the body, for both utilitarian purposes and defensive ones," Lourenco says. "It also makes adaptive sense to be afraid of things that are too far away from you on the vertical dimension, since there can be a great cost to falling."

In ongoing work, Lourenco and Longo are investigating how the range of individual differences in spatial perception relates to fear. They are asking normal research subjects, who are not seeking treatment for claustrophobia or acrophobia (the fear of heights), to estimate various distances.

While the subjects who have higher levels of claustrophobic fear underestimate horizontal distances, those who have more acrophobic fear overestimate vertical distances. "One intriguing possibility is that these two types of fear may form opposite ends of a single spatial-perceptual continuum," Lourenco says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Emory University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stella F. Lourenco, Matthew R. Longo, Thanujeni Pathman. Near space and its relation to claustrophobic fear. Cognition, 2011; 119 (3): 448 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.02.009

Cite This Page:

Emory University. "Psychologists closing in on causes of claustrophobic fear." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110412065809.htm>.
Emory University. (2011, April 13). Psychologists closing in on causes of claustrophobic fear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110412065809.htm
Emory University. "Psychologists closing in on causes of claustrophobic fear." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110412065809.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) — Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Phoenix hospital is experimenting with a faster way to test much needed medications for deadly brain tumors. Patients get a single dose of a potential drug, and hours later have their tumor removed to see if the drug had any affect. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

Buzz60 (Jan. 22, 2015) — What you do before bed can effect how well you sleep. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has bedtime rituals to induce the best night&apos;s sleep. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins