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https://theconversation.com/explainer-why-are-we-afraid-of-spiders-26405

I’ve been wondering a small bit about the irrational fear evoked by spiders and snakes. Some people say there may be an evolutionary component to it as a few of these creatures can potentially be deadly. But our visceral response to them seems to be far more excessive than the actual threat they would have posed throughout human evolution.

 

Humans obviously have a limited capacity to empathise with animals. We can anthropomorphise our pets and we might admire animals in the zoo. But as the philosopher Thomas Nagal pointed out, “What is it Like to be a Bat?”. In other words what is the sentience of these creatures like?

 

They can’t just be inanimate robots as they display complex behaviour. Perhaps they live in a barely self-aware oneiric sort of existence that will be forever unknown to us. Some exotic creatures may possess a mind so “alien” to ours that it becomes repulsive when we try to project a degree of consciousness onto it. So might the creepiness of spiders and snakes be more of our instinctive reaction to their unfathomable psychology rather than the actual biology of them?

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I have never had that fear of spiders or snakes.  My wife is deathly afraid of snakes.  My phobia is sharks which my wife thinks is a riot.  Every time I'm in the ocean I just know a shark is homing in on me, and she just rolls her eyes and swims out to deeper water [shudder].

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Bufofrog said:

I have never had that fear of spiders or snakes.  My wife is deathly afraid of snakes.  My phobia is sharks which my wife thinks is a riot.  Every time I'm in the ocean I just know a shark is homing in on me, and she just rolls her eyes and swims out to deeper water [shudder].

 Once I'd handled a couple of snakes (garters)I felt more empathetic towards them. I found myself near a poisonous adder not long ago - about 3m away - and just stood still and let it slide away. First one I'd seen in nearly 60 years.

Edited by StringJunky

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My family was on a walk through the woods with another family when I spotted a copperhead (a type of pit viper) so I caught it and showed the kids how to identify pit viper and the dangers of being bitten.  I opened its mouth and showed them it's fangs which made a scary impression on them.  When my wife caught up to us and saw the snake she was not amused, the other family and all the kids were quite interested though.

Snakes are surprisingly docile creatures.  If you gently hold a 5 ft long black snake (a non poisonous snake) by the head for a few minutes it will usually relax and it will not try to bite you anymore and will crawl around on you like pet.  I can't think of another animal you could do that with.  I would never attempt to pick up even a mouse without protective gloves

 

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When I unexpectedly see a snake I kind of freak out for a moment. In an instant my heart rate and breathing spike, I can feel the adrenaline surge, and I immediately start looking around for all his snake buddies who must be waiting in ambush. One time my wife was concerned as I stormed into the house cursing a blue streak and locked the door behind me. For the next couple of days every stick, crack in the concrete, or elongated shadow makes me think of snakes. I'll often have bad dreams afterwards.

I am fully aware this is irrational but I have no control over it. This near instant reaction I have to snakes makes it feel like it is much more visceral than intellectual.

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, zapatos said:

When I unexpectedly see a snake I kind of freak out for a moment. In an instant my heart rate and breathing spike, I can feel the adrenaline surge, and I immediately start looking around for all his snake buddies who must be waiting in ambush. One time my wife was concerned as I stormed into the house cursing a blue streak and locked the door behind me. For the next couple of days every stick, crack in the concrete, or elongated shadow makes me think of snakes. I'll often have bad dreams afterwards.

I am fully aware this is irrational but I have no control over it. This near instant reaction I have to snakes makes it feel like it is much more visceral than intellectual.

See if you can find someone with a safe one to show you. Keep looking at pictures first in increasing doses until you feel ok, then videos. 

Spiders, I just let them get on with it and move them out the way if they are heading my way in the house.

Edited by StringJunky

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37 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

See if you can find someone with a safe one to show you. Keep looking at pictures first in increasing doses until you feel ok, then videos. 

Spiders, I just let them get on with it and move them out the way if they are heading my way in the house.

While I don't care for spiders they don't really bother me any more than big centipedes or other creepy looking creatures.

Many years ago I let my boys both have aquariums with snakes. I was fine looking at them in the tank, and when the boys handled them it was a little creepy but no big deal. Then they talked me into holding their corn snake (see stock image below). It was a bit tense but fine while it was just wrapped around my fingers, but then it looked me in the eye and started moving toward my face. Boom! I couldn't get that thing out of my hand fast enough. 

image.png.d963821d1ad11045ee56f86c0a3c63b8.png

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8 minutes ago, zapatos said:

While I don't care for spiders they don't really bother me any more than big centipedes or other creepy looking creatures.

Many years ago I let my boys both have aquariums with snakes. I was fine looking at them in the tank, and when the boys handled them it was a little creepy but no big deal. Then they talked me into holding their corn snake (see stock image below). It was a bit tense but fine while it was just wrapped around my fingers, but then it looked me in the eye and started moving toward my face. Boom! I couldn't get that thing out of my hand fast enough. 

image.png.d963821d1ad11045ee56f86c0a3c63b8.png

You are not too bad then.

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I have arachnaphobia sufficiently advanced that I have to take time to still my pulse. Pretty sure this started at 4 or 5 years old with my grandfather cutting dead leaves/branches off banana trees. A huge Huntsmen (large friendly harmless useful spider, large being easy 8 inches across) leap from a cut branch onto my head. More recently coming face to face with a funnel web (about the size of the first joint on your thumb and VERY venomous) and this was NOT amuzing.   Snakes are a different matter. I was introduced young to very poisonous snakes - first recollection is catching a death adder (venomous stubby fat 2 foot long maybe) , but also the common brown (6 foot, skinny, fast, way aggressive, leave alone). I like snakes. I got a little agitated when my wife nearly walked on top of a red belly black (these guys eat browns) in a state forest a couple of years ago, but as long as we avoided it once seen all good. Get the camera out.

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9 hours ago, druS said:

A huge Huntsmen (large friendly harmless useful spider, large being easy 8 inches across) leap from a cut branch onto my head.

Yep, that would do it for me too! 🐍

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On 3/24/2020 at 11:24 PM, Michael McMahon said:

But our visceral response to them seems to be far more excessive than the actual threat they would have posed throughout human evolution.

By what measurement ?

As i see it, we 've had little to no use to them, and they 're often poisonous, more harmfull then helpfull, which is enough for any negative reaction to evolve: in evolution a reaction is only "excessive" when it is disadvantageous.

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Roamer said:

By what measurement ?

As i see it, we 've had little to no use to them, and they 're often poisonous, more harmfull then helpfull, which is enough for any negative reaction to evolve: in evolution a reaction is only "excessive" when it is disadvantageous.

They can keep other insects down in ones property. All I see is spiders and something must be around in the house to keep them going... wood lice, earwigs, flies and stuff like that 

Edited by StringJunky

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On 3/25/2020 at 9:05 AM, zapatos said:

When I unexpectedly see a snake I kind of freak out for a moment. In an instant my heart rate and breathing spike, I can feel the adrenaline surge, and I immediately start looking around for all his snake buddies who must be waiting in ambush. One time my wife was concerned as I stormed into the house cursing a blue streak and locked the door behind me. For the next couple of days every stick, crack in the concrete, or elongated shadow makes me think of snakes. I'll often have bad dreams afterwards.

I am fully aware this is irrational but I have no control over it. This near instant reaction I have to snakes makes it feel like it is much more visceral than intellectual.

There seems to me to be a difference between "irrational" and "visceral" fear of spiders (or whatever), although it may just be a spectrum of behavior. But what I think of as "irrational" is the type of fear that would cause you to do something possibly equally dangerous, like you see a spider/snake and go into such a blind panic that you forget to duck as you dash out the door, or you start throwing your spouse's antique porcelain figurine collection at them just to keep them away. That seems different than a healthy fear of something that could hurt you, deep visceral feelings for sure, but not the type that sends you into a panic. A visceral fear is the kind where you want to know where that spider/snake is so you can keep your distance. An irrational fear is the kind where you don't stop running just because the critter is a mile back.

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4 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

There seems to me to be a difference between "irrational" and "visceral" fear of spiders (or whatever), although it may just be a spectrum of behavior. But what I think of as "irrational" is the type of fear that would cause you to do something possibly equally dangerous, like you see a spider/snake and go into such a blind panic that you forget to duck as you dash out the door, or you start throwing your spouse's antique porcelain figurine collection at them just to keep them away. That seems different than a healthy fear of something that could hurt you, deep visceral feelings for sure, but not the type that sends you into a panic. A visceral fear is the kind where you want to know where that spider/snake is so you can keep your distance. An irrational fear is the kind where you don't stop running just because the critter is a mile back.

No one chooses to panic.

Some may pretend, for effect...

 

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1 minute ago, dimreepr said:

No one chooses to panic.

You can choose not to act on it. I had a bat in my living room once. It was flying around so fast I couldn't focus on what the issue was... just pure fear.  I pulled a coat or something my head, sat on the floor and waited to calm down. I eventually saw it and realized it was more spooked than I was. I watched it for a bit until it went into the fold of a curtain. I coaxed it into a bucket with a book then let it fly off from the window.

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3 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

You can choose not to act on it. I had a bat in my living room once. It was flying around so fast I couldn't focus on what the issue was... just pure fear.  I pulled a coat or something my head, sat on the floor and waited to calm down. I eventually saw it and realized it was more spooked than I was. I watched it for a bit until it went into the fold of a curtain. I coaxed it into a bucket with a book then let it fly off from the window.

I would call that a visceral fear. You were scared, but it caused you to take reasoned measures to ensure your safety first. If your fear had been irrational, you might well have jumped through a closed window just to get away.

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2 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

You can choose not to act on it. I had a bat in my living room once. It was flying around so fast I couldn't focus on what the issue was... just pure fear.  I pulled a coat or something my head, sat on the floor and waited to calm down. I eventually saw it and realized it was more spooked than I was. I watched it for a bit until it went into the fold of a curtain. I coaxed it into a bucket with a book then let it fly off from the window.

Sounds more like you panicked, then some time later you calmed down; rather than you chose not to panic.

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

I would call that a visceral fear. You were scared, but it caused you to take reasoned measures to ensure your safety first. If your fear had been irrational, you might well have jumped through a closed window just to get away.

Yes.

13 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Sounds more like you panicked, then some time later you calmed down; rather than you chose not to panic.

I said: "You can choose not to act on it". You don't have to physically freak out, following with some random action that may be more dangerous than the threat. I like bats but that one was initially just a shadow with no apparent cause... like a ghost.

Edited by StringJunky

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8 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

I said: "You can choose not to act on it". You don't have to physically freak out, following with some random action.

My understanding is that military training teaches exactly that. They know that bullets flying over your head and loud explosions nearby cause fear, but through training they teach you how to choose your response, rather than simply jumping up and running.

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3 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

I said: "You can choose not to act on it". You don't have to physically freak out, following with some random action.

Philosophically speaking, that is at the heart of the free will debate; which would be solved, if we had that fortitude.

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Philosophically speaking, that is at the heart of the free will debate; which would be solved, if we had that fortitude.

Yes, I think one could go down that road with it. Counter-instinctual behaviour supports it, I think.

9 minutes ago, zapatos said:

My understanding is that military training teaches exactly that. They know that bullets flying over your head and loud explosions nearby cause fear, but through training they teach you how to choose your response, rather than simply jumping up and running.

Yes, I think it's part of their self-discipline training.

Edited by StringJunky

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Are you suggesting, we can be trained to be free?

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12 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Are you suggesting, we can be trained to be free?

Transferring that signal to your brain first for reflection? Yes.

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4 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

Transferring that signal to your brain first for reflection? Yes.

How can you tell that signal isn't part of your training?

I'm guessing panic...

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It’s interesting to note that some of the most intimidating specimens are in fact not too harmful:
Compared to common pets such as dogs, tarantulas are not dangerous at all.“

https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/arachnology-and-entomology/spider-myths/myth-tarantulas-are

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll be queuing up to buy one of these pets any day soon!

 

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