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Fear of Spiders and Snakes

Summary #

Fear is an important part of how we make decisions. Everything from selecting car seats for our children to our policy decisions.

Spider web

(Photo: Wikimedia)

Commentary #

Fear of snakes and spiders is relatively common (among humans). And thanks to shows like Fear Factor, we can all watch others try to overcome these primal fears from the comfort of our homes.

However, there is reason to believe that these fears are not strictly rooted in genetics (nature), but are learned (nurture). Yet, a recent study does show the role that nature might play, particularly for females, in facilitating fearful associations for certain things such as spiders and snakes.

In Does women's greater fear of snakes and spiders originate in infancy?, David Rakison extends results from previous studies (done on adults) on the rapid association between fear and snakes and spiders (as opposed to mushrooms and flowers) to infants only 11 months old. The results show that infant girls learn the association between fearful facial expressions and fearful stimuli (snake, spider) more quickly than do boys. There was no similar distinction between non-fearful stimuli (mushroom, flower). The resulting hypothesis, then, is that certain types of fears are the products of evolutionary psychology.

Meta #

What steps have you taken to mitigate a fear you've had? Were you successful?

Updates #

2023-11-28 #

  • Updated broken links.