Snakes and spiders evoke fear, shiver and disgust in many people. Most of these are completely harmless and provide pesticide-free insect control. But Still, without having much negative contact with them, spiders and snakes give many people the shivers.
Now, researchers may know where this fear comes from – we’re born with this fear. Yes, you read it right! This fear is evident even in countries where people do not often have snake or spiders encounters. People still tend to fear them. This could be possible because of the coexistence of these animals with humans and their ancestors for more than 40 to 60 million years.
What Researchers Found?
Researchers with the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Germany and the Uppsala University in Sweden conducted a research which found that even in infants, a stress reaction happens when they see a spider or a snake.
They discovered that this fear is hereditary, even babies as young as six months old feel stressed when seeing these creatures, long before they could have learnt this reaction.
They showed 6-month-old infants two sets of 16 items a card containing 8 photographs each of spiders and flowers, and the other consisting of 8 photographs each of snakes and fish.
Each items had same corresponding colour. The researchers then measured pupil dilation of the infants. When they showed pictures of a snake or a spider to the babies instead of a flower or a fish of the same size and color, they reacted with significantly bigger pupils.
So, The Fear Is Hereditary?
Conclusion of the two experiments suggests that our ancestors’ fear of threatening stimuli such as spiders and snakes seem to have been carried over to modern humans.
The threat that our ancestors experienced already induces stress/tension responses to modern humans even at the young age of six months.