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On 3/24/2020 at 6:24 PM, Michael McMahon said:

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?

It's not that complicated. We hate them because they're threatening and ugly.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's not that complicated. We hate them because they're threatening and ugly.”
- drumbo 

But then why don’t people find sharp objects creepy? Jagged rocks could trip you over and blades can be used as weapons. They’d be far more threatening in an evolutionary sense. Yet spiders can somehow have a slightly frightening effect. We don’t find smaller insects like flies creepy as they can be easily dismissed as automata. But the larger the spider, the scarier it can be for a few people. I don’t think anyone would be afraid of a lifelike robot spider. So I imagine the fear of spiders comes from misplaced sense of empathy with animals and pets. It goes awry when we apply it to more peculiar species.

https://www.google.ie/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/tech-support/201501/3-things-being-cat-person-or-dog-person-reveals-about-you%3famp
 

The phrase pathetic fallacy is a literary term for the attribution of human emotion and conduct to things found in nature that are not human. It is a kind of personification that occurs in poetic descriptions, when, for example, clouds seem sullen, when leaves dance, or when rocks seem indifferent.”

Some scientists believe that the belief in creator gods is an evolutionary by-product of agent detection. A spandral is a non-adaptive trait formed as a side effect of an adaptive trait. The psychological trait in question is "if you hear a twig snap in the forest, some sentient force is probably behind it". This trait helps to prevent the primate from being murdered or eaten as food. However this hypothetical trait could remain in modern humans: thus some evolutionary psychologists theorize that "even if the snapping was caused by the wind, modern humans are still inclined to attribute the sound to a sentient agent; they call this person a god".

- Wikipedia 

“All of their answers had one underlying theme, one unifying factor that made the person or situation creepy: the presence of an ambiguous threat.

Not something frightening or strange, mind you.  A killer on the loose is frightening -- there's no ambiguity in the potential danger there. And your nerdy, socially awkward cousin may be strange, but he's harmless, and therefore not creepy. Creepiness is a function of uncertainty.

In a paper he wrote with undergraduate psychology student Sara Koehnke, McAndrews explains, "It is our belief that creepiness is anxiety aroused by the ambiguity of whether there is something to fear or not, and/or by the ambiguity of the precise nature of the threat (e.g., sexual, physical violence, contamination, etc)."

- KQED 

 

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On 10/3/2020 at 4:26 PM, Michael McMahon said:

"All of their answers had one underlying theme, one unifying factor that made the person or situation creepy: the presence of an ambiguous threat.

Not something frightening or strange, mind you.  A killer on the loose is frightening -- there's no ambiguity in the potential danger there. And your nerdy, socially awkward cousin may be strange, but he's harmless, and therefore not creepy. Creepiness is a function of uncertainty.

In a paper he wrote with undergraduate psychology student Sara Koehnke, McAndrews explains, "It is our belief that creepiness is anxiety aroused by the ambiguity of whether there is something to fear or not, and/or by the ambiguity of the precise nature of the threat (e.g., sexual, physical violence, contamination, etc)."

I think stopping the analysis at the point of recognizing that the threat is ambiguous misses the bigger picture. It has to do with cognitive dissonance and avoiding guilt. There is zero guilt in wanting to avoid a serial killer on the loose. However wanting to avoid our socially awkward cousin may give us feelings of guilt if we try to rationalize it. Is there really anything wrong with him? Can we precisely say what it is that makes him unpleasant? The feeling of being creeped out by him allows us to justify avoiding associating with him without over-analyzing why we don't like him, which might make us feel guilty if we can't really put our finger on why. Creepiness allows us to bypass feelings of guilt over our own potentially irrational dislike of things. Is it irrational to have such a hatred of all spiders? Perhaps, but I don't have to confront it, they're just creepy and that's all there is to it.

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On 3/24/2020 at 10:24 PM, Michael McMahon said:

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?

Snakes have never bothered me.  But I absolutely can't stand spiders.  They're so frightening, with their multiple, thin, stalky legs and unnaturally fast rushing mechanical movements.

This fear and loathing of spiders seems universal in humans.  I once read in a book, that it is caused by spiders being of extra-terrestrial origin.  Could that be true?

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13 minutes ago, Charles 3781 said:

This fear and loathing of spiders seems universal in humans. 

No it isn't.
I'm OK with them. Some people keep them as pets.
 

13 minutes ago, Charles 3781 said:

it is caused by spiders being of extra-terrestrial origin.  Could that be true?

No.

 

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28 minutes ago, Charles 3781 said:

I bet you just read about the idea in a book, didn't you?

Yeah. Those damn, well-written, properly researched books. What a waste of time they are. Best you steer clear of them laddie.

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29 minutes ago, Charles 3781 said:

Crikey, I'm not sure what that means, Phi - will you semaphore it by waving your spinnarettes at me on the Dark web, if you get my drift. Nudge, nudge.

I'd like to say goodbye now in case I'm not here when you are shown the door.

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On 10/14/2020 at 8:06 PM, Charles 3781 said:

I don't believe you keep a spider as a pet.  Or actually know, or ever met  anyone who does.  I bet you just read about the idea in a book, didn't you?

I'm not responsible for whatever nonsense you believe.

However, in the real world, people keep spiders as pets.
https://www.thesprucepets.com/pet-tarantulas-1237346
And yes I have known people who had a pet spider.

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  • 6 months later...

I think people are often afraid of spiders or snakes but not always both. These species are very different from each other so they’re usually not equally frightening. I’ve had to capture so many spiders around the house that I’m no longer too frightened by them. I can begin to appreciate their eccentric nature at a distance. But if they come close I confess I’d be very alert. I’ve never had much aversion to images of snakes. They just remind me of a large version of lizards. That picture is one I took abroad on holidays. Although I’ve never seen them in real life so I can’t say for certain how I’d respond. I get wry amusement when friends get scared of snakes on TV but I know that’s hypocritical because if I ever saw an actual tarantula I’m sure I’d be intimidated!

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Edited by Michael McMahon
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I’m not disputing a functional fear of venomous insects. Humans originated in Africa and then migrated around the globe. Spiders are poisonous in southern Africa. The Sahara has dangerous vipers and cobras. So perhaps a fear of them is ingrained through primordial human evolution. Yet spiders and snakes have been harmless for millennia in temperate climate zones like Ireland where there are no snakes. So over time the initial physical, defensive fear has morphed into a creepy vibe. We can get angry if a pet dog bites and hit back in deterrence yet we don’t have the same frustrated sensation with insects. Hence a survivable insect bite could still induce a disproportionate amount of stress.

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1 hour ago, Michael McMahon said:

So over time the initial physical, defensive fear has morphed into a creepy vibe. 

I'm not so sure. "Creepy" feels to me like a judgement based on specific differences, and ambulation may be one of them. Spiders and snakes seem "creepy" because they don't move right from our perspective, never have and never will. Too many legs on the spider, and none at all on the snake! The way they move is creepy mostly because it seems more unpredictable than the two or four limb movement we encounter most. If it's harder to predict what they might do, that adds to how creepy something is.

Don't get me started on jumping spiders. Eight legs means when you jump, you're so fast it looks like you just disappeared.

1 hour ago, Michael McMahon said:

We can get angry if a pet dog bites and hit back in deterrence yet we don’t have the same frustrated sensation with insects.

Despite those who keep them as pets, I don't think comparing any reptile or arachnid with a domesticated mammal is meaningful. 

 

1 hour ago, Michael McMahon said:

Hence a survivable insect bite could still induce a disproportionate amount of stress.

Insect bites are a problem almost everywhere, and long term consequences complicate surviving them: https://sma.org/southern-medical-journal/article/national-estimates-of-noncanine-bite-and-sting-injuries-treated-in-us-hospital-emergency-departments-2011-2015/

Quote

Injuries resulting from contact with animals are a significant public health concern. This study quantifies and updates nonfatal bite and sting injuries by noncanine sources using the most recent data available (2011–2015) from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program with the purpose of using these updates to better understand public health consequences and prevention techniques. Increased rates of bites and stings can be expected in this study’s time frame, possibly caused by the increasing human population expanding into animal territories, as well as changes in animal geographic distribution and pet ownership.

 

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51 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

Spiders and snakes seem "creepy" because they don't move right from our perspective, never have and never will. Too many legs on the spider, and none at all on the snake! The way they move is creepy mostly because it seems more unpredictable than the two or four limb movement we encounter most.

Supposedly it would be harder to move with 8 legs than 4. They’re moving chaotically while arachnophobes might misinterpret their motion as if they were moving intentionally. We mistakenly think it takes more conscious willpower for a spider to move than a quadruped when in reality they’re moving deterministically and automatically. That mismatch might create a creepy vibe. 

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33 minutes ago, Michael McMahon said:

Supposedly it would be harder to move with 8 legs than 4. They’re moving chaotically while arachnophobes might misinterpret their motion as if they were moving intentionally. We mistakenly think it takes more conscious willpower for a spider to move than a quadruped when in reality they’re moving deterministically and automatically. That mismatch might create a creepy vibe. 

One of the creepiest things I remember seeing was in the opening credits for American Horror Story: Asylum. For just a split second, they show a woman bent all the way over backwards, walking on her hands and feet up some stairs like a big spider. It was SO unnatural, and it still gives me the willies thinking about it.

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There does seem to be an innate aspect to such fears, and considerable variation between people.    I never had much fear of reptiles or arachnids, always had the impression they were pretty shy and not bent on harming people.  They seem like allies to our species,  for the most part, snuffing pests.   I have to wonder to what degree the "creepiness" is culturally learned.   A fear of spiders didn't even occur to me until I learned about the poisonous ones and (Zapatos,  you may wish to stop reading at this point)(j/k) I had heard about them biting people while they slept.   If you're talking about a species that climbs in bed with you and administers poison,  then,  yes,  fear is reasonable (not sure that could be termed a phobia,  really).  The genetics Nobel laureate Kary Mullis had a nightmarish encounter with poisonous spiders which he recounts in "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field. "  Had me checking our sheets for months after reading that.   Point being,  I had to hear scary stories to really develop any spider anxieties.

In terms of the most visceral insect fear,  it would probably be ones that defensively swarm and attack humans (generally who've been unaware that they're close to a nest),  like the Africanized killer bee or the Asian giant hornets which have been known to sting people to the point of kidney failure and death.   Makes arachnids pale into insignificance by comparison.   

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42 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

That pretty face has been getting you in trouble your whole life. 

Har! A couple of years ago I was on a business trip to Amsterdam and a colleague and I went to have a drink in a bar. She's quite attractive and guys are always trying to pick her up, even when she is standing there with me. Very emasculating! She was joking that someone would be after me before long and it turns out she was right. For the first time in about 20 years I got hit on in a bar. Unfortunately for me it was a guy! My colleague was standing off to the side, laughing and taking pictures, which she sent to my wife. They both had a good laugh.

I seem to have lost my touch with women but am now sweet as honey for guys and venomous snakes. If my wife ever divorces me at least I'll have options!!! 😃

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On 7/22/2021 at 11:23 PM, TheVat said:

I have to wonder to what degree the "creepiness" is culturally learned. 

That’s interesting. Maybe seeing other people being unafraid of spiders can be reassuring. Although the image below unsettles me. It’s ironic given that the big spiders are sometimes harmless compared to the poisonous bites of smaller ones. Yet the fact it’s bigger than a hamster immediately and subconsciously makes me compare the spider to a small mammal. I’m accustomed to viewing pets like hamsters as marginally sensory though in a non-rational, pain-free and non-memorising way. Increasing the scales of an average spider by a few dozen is disconcerting because it’s no longer fly-like and I’ve to momentarily reassess the insect. The weirdness of the insect compared to the shape of a little mammal potentially creates cognitive dissonance. Maybe I could view a hamster as thoroughly insentient to minimise my aversion to similar sized insects! Although then it’d be difficult to understand a spectrum of awareness from a hamster to a rabbit and so forth. I’ve seen mice and even rats on forest trails without them bothering me. Rats may have dangerous micro-organisms as seen during medieval times in the bubonic plague. Perhaps that could be another factor of our hesitation towards spiders and snakes where our evolved immune system might unconsciously bias us against unusual creatures.

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rat-on-rose-street-by-frank-moses.jpg;w=

Personally I’m not creeped out much by rats. But I can understand how the contrast within a rat’s morphology is strange. Some of the rat resembles a harmless hamster while the elongated tail is like a worm or a little snake. The problem is there’s quite a gulf between our interpretation of whatever life is in a hamster and a worm.

Edited by Michael McMahon
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