Dense sensor event-related brain potentials were measured in participants with spider phobia and nonfearful controls during viewing of phobia-relevant spider and standard emotional (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral) pictures. Irrespective of the picture content, spider phobia participants responded with larger P1 amplitudes than controls, suggesting increased vigilance in this group. Furthermore, spider phobia participants showed a significantly enlarged early posterior negativity (EPN) and late positive potential (LPP) during the encoding of phobia-relevant pictures compared to nonfearful controls. No group differences were observed for standard emotional materials indicating that these effects were specific to phobia-relevant material. Within group comparisons of the spider phobia group, though, revealed comparable EPN and LPP evoked by spider pictures and emotional (unpleasant and pleasant) picture contents. These results demonstrate a temporal unfolding in perceptual processing from unspecific vigilance (P1) to preferential responding (EPN and LPP) to phobia-relevant materials in the spider phobia group. However, at the level of early stimulus processing, these effects of increased attention seem to be related to emotional relevance of the stimulus cues rather than reflecting a fear-specific response.