Behaviour Change

Standard Papers

Online Exposure Treatment for Spider Fear: The Effects of Moving Versus Static Images on Treatment Adherence, Fear Elicitation and Habituation

Allison J. Matthewsa1 c1, Joel D. Scanlana1 and Ken C. Kirkbya1

a1 Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Australia


This research aimed to examine the effects of moving (videos) versus static (pictures) images on habituation and progression in a hierarchy during online symbolic exposure (OSE) for spider fear. Participants were 351 people with high spider fear who logged on to an OSE website ( for self-help purposes. The inclusion of moving images in the exposure hierarchy increased adherence rates relative to static images, particularly among those with lower relative to higher spider fear. Those who viewed moving images at Stage 2 showed higher Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) ratings overall, but a similar pattern of habituation relative to those who viewed static images. In addition, 71% of participants completed at least one stage of the OSE program, representing an improvement from 30% adherence in previous research that used an earlier version of the program. These findings support the development of tailored exposure hierarchies to maximise adherence and treatment benefit for individual participants.


  • spider phobia;
  • exposure treatment;
  • internet;
  • online interventions;
  • habituation;
  • anxiety


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Allison Matthews, Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 30, Hobart TAS 7001, Australia. E-mail: