A new study suggests perception of a spider's size is based on the level of fear you have of it. A new study suggests perception of a spider's size is based on the level of fear you have of it. A new study suggests perception of a spider's size is based on the level of fear you have of it. (Photo: Sari ONeal)

To arachnophobics, there’s no such thing as the 'itsy bitsy spider'

Researchers report that Spiders look bigger to those who are afraid of them.

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout ... though a new study suggests if you're fearful of the eight-legged arthropods, "itsy bitsy" might not cut it.

That was the conclusion of researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University. In findings published in Biological Psychology, they said participants in their study perceived spiders to be larger the greater the level of fear they had of them.

The participants, all students at the school, were put through two experiments to test their responses to spiders. In the first, they were shown pictures of spiders along with neutral images, such as butterflies.

While many of the students said they found spiders unpleasant, only those who were "highly fearful" of them thought they were bigger than the butterflies.

For the second experiment, the researchers added other "creepy" creatures, like wasps and beetles.

The beetles, which participants said they were fearful of, rated larger than they actually were, while the other insects, which the students weren't afraid of, weren't judged as being larger.

“This study revealed how perception of even a basic feature such as size is influenced by emotion, and demonstrates how each of us experiences the world in a unique and different way,”explained Dr. Tali Leibovich, the Ph.D. researcher at Ben Gurion University who led the study.

Of course, if you suffer from arachnophobia, you pretty much experience spiders in the same way the people in this video do:

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