An ability to detect threatening stimuli more efficiently than nonthreatening stimuli.
People are born with automatic visual detection mechanisms for evolutionarily threatening stimuli, such as snakes. These threatening stimuli are detected more quickly than nonthreatening stimuli and are thought to have evolutionary origins; efficiently detecting threats no doubt provided a selective advantage for our human ancestors.1
For example, when presented with images containing threatening elements, such as spiders, and nonthreatening elements, such as flowers, people can locate the threatening elements more quickly than the non-threatening elements. The search times are not affected by the location of the threatening element or the ...