Just a quick post today. This one’s especially for the arachnophobes. You know who you are.
A popular scientific explanation for arachnophobia has been that it reflects an evolutionarily endowed avoidance of creatures found to be dangerous in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness (aka EEA). You probably know the drill. Gullible cavepersons discover the hard way that spiders are a no-no and duly fail in their quest to become ancestors; meanwhile, their arachno-skeptic fellow cavepersons choose to leave well enough alone and so live to fight — and, critically, to breed — another day.
Indeed, according to popular sci-comm lore, this all helps explain why modern humans are afraid of (historically dangerous but nowadays harmless) spiders, but much less phobic towards (modern-day and far more killy) cars and guns.
Except, according to (some) scientists, there’s a bit of a snag with the theory: very few killer spiders prowled the Savannah when our prehistoric forebears were taking shape as a species. More than that, lots of more dangerous things (for example, poisonous toads, venomous wasps, and even killer mushrooms) were much more commonly encountered than spiders, but did not result in the evolution of today’s stand-on-the-table wet-your-pants phobias.
So the precise reason for arachnophobia is actually unclear (although anti-spider stereotyping probably plays a role). But one thing’s for sure, there’s just something about spiders that gives people the heebie jeebies.
Maybe it’s this:
Here’s another one:
See that? That’s YOUR face, that is. Trapped in a spider.
(You can catch some more pics over on Cracked.com.)
Some wholly reliable survey data suggest that 50% of women (but only 10% of men – take that, evolution) suffer from arachnophobic symptoms. And that’s before discovering that practically every spider has a genetic replica of a shrunken human head grafted onto its body.
You see, that’s what happens when you let them crawl into your earhole as you sleep.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.