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Abstract

Perception takes into account the costs and benefits of possible interpretations of incoming sensory data. This should be especially pertinent for threat recognition, where minimising the costs associated with missing a real threat is of primary importance. We tested whether recognition of threats has special characteristics that adapt this process to the task it fulfils. Participants were presented with images of threats and visually matched neutral stimuli, distorted by varying levels of noise. We found threat superiority effect and liberal response bias. Moreover, increasing the level of noise degraded the recognition of the neutral images to higher extent than the threatening images. To summarise, recognising threats is special, in that it is more resistant to noise and decline in stimulus quality, suggesting that threat recognition is a fast ‘all or nothing’ process, in which threat presence is either confirmed or negated.
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