Are You Afraid of Snakes and Spiders?

I think we would agree that most, if not all of us are afraid of spiders and snakes. Australia is quite notorious to people for these deadly animals although they may not be all that common in the cities. People tend to exaggerate the aggressiveness of these animals although they usually do not attack unless we disturb them first. Regardless, it is best to avoid them when we do not know the species well. Recently, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have found that this fear of spiders and snakes may come from a deep, psychological fear from our ancestors.

Quite pretty to see at times, i’d say. Image from Flickr

Tests were done on babies as young as six months old to see whether they show a reaction to spiders and snakes, long before they know the dangers of these animals. When shown pictures of these creatures, their pupils enlarge compared to viewing harmless pictures of flowers or fish. This expresses their stress when looking at these animals despite never seeing them.

From this experiment, it is thought that fear of snakes and spiders comes from our ancestors. Mechanisms in our brain makes us feel fear upon seeing a spider or snake and makes us react to them, by avoiding or getting rid of them. Other dangers such as bears and knives were also tested with these babies without results. This further proves the point that the fear of snakes and spiders may be hereditary. Bears and knives have not existed from way back then.

In some countries, most people have never come across a venomous spider or snake in the wild. However, this does not stop them from developing a fear for them despite most spiders and snakes being harmless to humans. When this fear escalates to affect their daily lives, it becomes more of a phobia, an excessive and irrational fear reaction. The phobia of spiders and snakes top the list of phobias along with fear of heights next. Shows how interesting this fear may be. Despite never seeing or experiencing an encounter, we experience a fear towards them when we don’t know what we are facing.

While this fear may be justified, it is unnecessary to exert more stress. It is ingrained in our nature to be scared of them but letting it evolve as such to affect our daily lives is problematic. Most are harmless and won’t be aggressive towards humans unless disturbed. A good example of why we shouldn’t exaggerate is again Australia’s notoriousness for these creatures. Shows we shouldn’t express a problem to be bigger than it actually is.



One Response to “Are You Afraid of Snakes and Spiders?”

  1. Steven Lapworth says:

    It’s amazing that our instincts kick in at such a young age. You’re right though, we have no reason to let that instinctual fear control our lives.