October 20, 2004

Fight or Flight

I'm wondering about the role that Relevance may or may not play in how humans react to fear. Since we are considering that Relevance should predict that human cognition will be most sensitive to the stimulus that is considered optimally relevant within a limited time, I'm curious what this claim would say about a person facing a 'fight or flight' situation.

I know from situations in my own life that when I'm experiencing something scary (e.g. falling off a ladder), I have a difficult time selecting a stimulus to focus on--to improve my situation. Likewise, if, let's say, I'm confronted with a grizzly bear in the woods, I would imagine that the bear would be the most relevant stimulus in my life at that moment.

I can imagine that instead of attending to the most relevant stimulus at the moment (the bear and perhaps how to appease him), a person might block out the sensations and perhaps faint. Alternatively, a person might attend to a more comforting but less relevant stimulus in their periphery (e.g. a bird on a tree) simply to distract him/herself from the fearful situation. I admit that this situation is highly hypothetical, but it seems realistic enough that Relevance should have to explain the selective attention involved.

Posted by steve125 at October 20, 2004 9:28 AM