You have no idea what a snake or spider looks like, even as a child. But the first time you see one, you instinctively know—and that chill runs down your spine.
Don’t fret. Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us, research has uncovered, lighting up the debate whether this aversion is innate or learned, says a report in Sciencedaily.comw.
And it is hereditary: that’s why even babies feel stressed when seeing the creepy crawlies long before they could have learnt this reaction.
Even at six months, observe scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and the Uppsala University, Sweden.
“When we showed pictures of a snake or a spider to the babies instead of a flower or a fish of the same size and colour, they reacted with significantly bigger pupils,” says Stefanie Hoehl, lead investigator of the underlying study and neuroscientist at MPI CBS and the University of Vienna.
“In constant light conditions this change in size of the pupils is an important signal for the activation of the noradrenergic system in the brain, which is responsible for stress reactions. Accordingly, even the youngest babies seem to be stressed by these groups of animals.”
“We conclude that fear of snakes and spiders is of evolutionary origin. Similar to primates, mechanisms in our brains enable us to identify objects as ‘spider’ or ‘snake’ and to react to them very fast. This obviously inherited stress reaction in turn predisposes us to learn these animals as dangerous or disgusting. When this accompanies further factors it can develop into a real fear or even phobia.”