We aren’t born afraid of spiders and snakes

January 25th, 2011 - 3:14 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 25 (ANI): People aren’t born afraid of spiders and snakes, but can learn these fears very quickly during infancy, says a new research.

Scientists have studied how infants and toddlers react to scary objects. In one set of experiments, they showed infants as young as 7 months old two videos side by side-one of a snake and one of something non-threatening, such as an elephant.

At the same time, the researchers played either a fearful voice or a happy voice. The babies spent more time looking at the snake videos when listening to the fearful voices, but showed no signs of fear themselves.

“What we’re suggesting is that we have these biases to detect things like snakes and spiders really quickly, and to associate them with things that are yucky or bad, like a fearful voice,” said Vanessa LoBue of Rutgers University.

In another study, 3-year-olds were shown a screen of nine photographs and told to pick out some target item. They identified snakes more quickly than flowers and more quickly than other animals that look similar to snakes, such as frogs and caterpillars.

Children who were afraid of snakes were just as fast at picking them out than children who hadn’t developed that fear.

“The original research by Ohman and Mineka with monkeys and adults suggested two important things that make snakes and spiders different. One is that we detect them quickly. The other is that we learn to be afraid of them really quickly,” LoBue said.

Her research on infants and young children suggests that this is true early in life, too-but not innate, since small children aren’t necessarily afraid of snakes and spiders.

The study is published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. (ANI)

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