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Old 10-19-02, 03:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
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What do you think of this study?

Evolution and snake/spider phobias

This study suggests that fear of spiders and snakes may be hardwired into people's brains.

My gut reaction was "Baloney" (well, cleaned up for public posting) but it is an interesting topic. The researcher has an admitted early childhood fear of spiders and snakes and therefore the findings may reflect a personal bias.

Ever since I can remember, snakes have fascinated me. I was often found lying on my belly in the shallow creek behind my gandfather's yard, turning over rocks and driftwood hoping to find snakes, frogs and salamanders. Of course, I also had an irrational fear of spiders for as long as I can remember.

When I was 7, my sister pranked me by dropping a spider on my face when I was sleeping, and it bit me on the palm when I tried to brush it off. My arm swelled up like crazy from a reaction to the bite, so maybe I was just psychic.

Or then again, maybe I evolved to hate spiders. As I'm of Irish descent and St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, my ancestors had no reason to be hardwired against snakes.
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Old 10-19-02, 05:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I am certainly no expert on the inner workings of the mind, and I haven't read that study yet, but I really feel that a lot of snake phobia or hatred is a learned behavior.
My reasoning:
I have taken several snakes to my sons elementry school for class show and tell. It is part of my effort to educate and try to dispel the bad rep that snakes get.
Not one time have any of the children run screaming from the room, in fact I haven't had any of the 1st or 2nd graders show any fear at all.
Teachers and staff on the other hand afford me a very wide berth as I walk to the classrooms, some even have to leave the room.
Also, all my sons friends come over and can't wait to see my babies. Not a single one is scared to come in my apt.
Parents are not as brave. One has even gone as far as to forbid his son to come over. (Sad but true)
Of course, that is my opinion, based soley upon my own personal experience, take what you want from it.
I am really interested to read others opinions on the subject.
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Old 10-19-02, 08:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That's the biggest load of crap research I've ever read! Seriously, I don't think that spiders and snakes are a fear wired into mammal's brains. Myself as a child I was out and looking for these things instead of running from them and most children are curious and not afraid, in my opinion, fear of spiders and snakes ARE a learned thing. If I would have listened to my mom about this stuff I most likely would be afraid but I always prefered to seek them out than to be afraid like she was.

This particular study does prove one thing, that we react much quicker to something we are afraid of. Pictures of spiders and snakes amidst pictures of flowers and mushrooms (???!!!) might scare some people who have those fears and/or phobias and of course if they're afraid, they'll see them quickly and press their little clicker faster than in other circumstances. If you did the same test with me but replaced the pics of spiders and snakes with ones of big crickets and grasshoppers, trust me, I'd be seeing them VERY fast and pressing my clicker at lightning speed!!! (Yes, I have a phobia of those things) But it just proves that we can spot the things we fear faster than things we are not afraid of, that's all.

The fears of spiders and snakes are just some of the most common ones. Obviously the researcher is one of these people and surprisingly not objective in her little test.
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Old 10-19-02, 09:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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ahhh freakin hell
i hate this kind of crap wired in my a$$
pretty much all us kids went runnin for snakes and other creepey crawlies
the only reason we out grow them is of other peoples fears
sorry just my opinion
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Old 10-19-02, 11:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I was catching snakes and eating spiders since I was a toddler. I think we are taught our irrational fears.
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Old 10-19-02, 11:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yup. Sounds like a pretty useless test to me. I'd agree that we might spot things we fear faster, but so? What about the poisonous plants, or the hunderds of other dangerous animals. Would we spot them as fast?

I think that fears like that are either learned, or are an individual thing. Some kids are affraid of dogs even though their parents might not be, or vice versa. My brother was affraid of mascotts! I am trying to allow my kids to decide for them selves if they like bugs and such. Just because I can't stand spiders, beetles, crickets, moths, grasshoppers and etc, that's no reason for me to inflict the same curse on them. Life, especially camping, would be a lot easier if bugs didn't bug me (what a wimp, eh?).

Sorry for going on, but that's just my opinion.
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Old 10-20-02, 12:17 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I love spiders. I wish more lived in my house. The kill the bugs.
Snakes? I just like to teraform!
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Old 10-20-02, 06:04 AM   #8 (permalink)
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*abnormal psych class is returning to haunt me...*

Actually, some people are predisposed to develope phobias <b>in general</b>, but not to develop specific phobias. That is, if you're going to get a phobia, you're as likely to develop a fear of flying, or dogs, or peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth, as you are to get one for snakes and spiders. Young kids generally <b>won't</b> show a fear of, say, snakes, unless they've seen someone else being afraid, or been told how 'dangerous' or 'disgusting' they are (or had their own bad experience already).
There was a study done with young monkeys of some kind (forget the species), where they weren't afraid of snakes until they observed adult monkeys being afraid... afterwards they were -terrified-. Coming from an area with snakes of a size that actually could eat them, if anything would be evolutionary predisposed to fear snakes (which is where I think the study you're referring to was coming from) one would think it would be those monkeys. But they have to learn it. Why should we be different (especially being larger and in less danger from hungry snakes)?

If any of this makes no sense, I blame it on the fact that it's 6am and I need sleep.

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Old 10-20-02, 06:39 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Didn't see the link the 1st time...

A few thoughts:

Their study with the slide show... I would like to see some slides with just the general shapes of snakes/spiders added... maybe the eye is just attracted to those shapes, the same way it's attracted to the colors red and yellow.

Faster reaction time indicates awareness, not fear. Also, if they did the same thing with dog pictures and someone who's afraid of dogs, they'd pick out the dogs faster. Maybe they should try dog images with non-phobic people and see if they see the flowers or the dogs faster... maybe we're predisposed to fear dogs too. Or gee, maybe we just pic out images of other animals over plants.

Evolution doesn't favor the retention of useless traits. I think any evolutionary tendancy to fear snakes would have died out by now. Plenty of 'lower' mammals have no fear of snakes because there aren't any in their present environment... meaning the snake fear (if there was such a thing) has died out because it's no longer useful. For the most part, humans haven't been of snake food size for a -long- time... if it could have died out in 'lower' animals, which may have been preyed on by snakes much more recently than people, then why would it hold on in us?

And finally... EARLY MAMMALS EVOLVED BEFORE SNAKES! The fist mammals showed up about 210 million years ago. The oldest snake is from 130 million years ago. (not to say a fear couldn't have come up in that time... but really, they should get their facts right... pick up an evolutionary geology text or something). So, shouldn't we technically be more afraid of lizards? They've been around longer after all...

various cornsnakes, 0.1 black pine snake, 1.0 uromastyx geyri, etc.

"The only thing worse than a human who had no respect for other animals was a human who assumed all other animals thought and felt just like he did." --Julia Ecklar, "ReGenesis"

Last edited by Cas; 10-20-02 at 06:42 AM..
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Old 10-20-02, 06:48 AM   #10 (permalink)
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i think it is a learned behavior also. my mom is afraid of snakes and spiders so i have always been afraid too. when i decide i wanted a pet lizard of corse she said no but with some convincing i got a mali uromastyx and when they took him out of the tank my mom would not even hold him but in weeks she would take him out on her on! i then got 4 snakes and still goin strong. my mom does not touch them but by her leting them in her house is a huge step. i admite i am still afraid of spiders (and all bugs for the matter).but a taratula is looking more and more interesting as the days go by!. so in conclusion i think it isa learned behavior but not impposible to out learn. sorry about the spelling but i mean come on its early in the morning.
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Old 10-20-02, 10:49 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I feel it is a learned fear. But it comes from the parents. The parents impose their fears on the children. My main reason for this opinion comes from someone that does reptile shows. They will go back to a group that they did a few years before. The first year they did the show most if not all the kids came forward at the end of the show to touch the reptiles. The next time only a small % will. The other thing comes from someone that owns a fish and reptile store. Mothers will come in with their kids and see a snake and say that it is slimmy and icky. This drives me nuts since I grew up in a house that my mothers attude was the same. Now reptiles, snakes in particular, are a very large part of my life.
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Old 10-20-02, 02:07 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I saw this happen once...
I was at work, and had a gorgeous albino pine snake out with me. A young child, he must have been less then 4 years old, wanted to see it. We sat down off to the side, and he just laughed with joy because he was able to pet the snake. Moments later, his mother walked by, and freaked out. The child then recoiled and hid behind his mother, giving me this look like I was a monster for letting him near something I shouldn't have. I was pretty mad...the kid was just enthralled before his mom got there. :/
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Old 10-20-02, 03:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
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My aunt was terrified of my snake. And I showed her a picture of him, and talked to her about how sweet he was, and she kind of loosened up and said that she wanted to try to not be scared of it.

It boils down to a matter of ignorance, I think. People just having closed minds. Sometimes I do think that people have extreme justifiable phobias, but I think that's pretty uncommon amongst all of the people who are just chicken.
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Old 10-20-02, 04:06 PM   #14 (permalink)
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so few snakes or spiders are toxic enough to harm us and only a couple are large enough to consider us food a hardwired instinct would be a waste. and the reference to St. Patrick is a metaphore for his driving out the Pagans(those are his snakes)
Old 10-20-02, 04:14 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Aymen Rev... I've always felt that the fear of snakes was a religio-cultural fear. If you look around the world, to areas where snakes are more venerated i.e. aboriginal cultures; you will find that the only ones there fearing the snakes are the white protestants or catholics. Just an observation - not a judgment.

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