Snakes and spiders! Now that I have your attention and you’re adequately creeped out, let’s talk about snakes and spiders. Mainstays in most of our nightmares and the cause of many a shriek around the home, these two creatures represent two major forces of fear. And, in the spirit of Halloween, let’s take a look at the real reason we are scared of slithering snakes and crawling spiders. Outside of the fact that, to put it into scientific terms, they’re both pretty icky.
A recent study by Uppsala University and The Max Planck Institute has discovered that we may be destined to be afraid of snakes and spiders. This was done by analyzing the pupils of six-month-old babies viewing images of the organisms, as well as more pleasant images of flowers and fish. The researchers found that, because the babies eyes would dilate when exposed to the “creepier” images (which can be a natural response to danger), fear of these snakes and arachnids is most likely not based on prior experience. Unlike those of us that paid money to see Anaconda in theaters in 1997.
Because these infants most likely had no prior experience with either creature (outside of the lesser known controversial Sesame Street special, Elmo’s Halloween Hack-Fest), there’s a good chance their fear reflects the fact we are simply born afraid of spiders and snakes. Aren’t you glad that you have this knowledge with the only cost being a few traumatized infants?
While it’s fascinating that this response comes naturally among humans, I find it pretty interesting that the more pleasant images chosen were fish and flowers. After all, as an adult pictures of fish simply remind me of my many failed childhood attempts at keeping goldfish alive, and pictures of flowers remind me that I’m going to have to buy overpriced flowers in just a few holidays. To me, those are much scarier than any snake or spider could be.
And so, as you enjoy your holiday festivities, you now have an easy conversation starter at your next Halloween party. Well, outside of discussing how everyone around you is dressed as either Pennywise or Wonder Woman.