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Yikes! This is the *real* reason you're afraid of spiders

Most people you know probably have a fear of spiders and snakes. Even if you're not chomping at the bits when you see a spider at the zoo, the thought of having one of those creepy crawlers in your house, or worse crawling up your arm is enough to make most of us shudder.

But why are so many of us deeply disturbed by these creatures? The answer maybe less obvious than you think.

A new study found that our fear of spiders and snakes may be hereditary. We don't mean hereditary like getting brown eyes or curly hair from your mom, we're talking evolutionary. Through a study which found that infants show significant levels of stress when shown a picture of a spider or snake, researchers were able to conclude that the fear is inherent. They believe we have a mechanism in our brain that allows us to recognize these animals as "snake" and "spider" and react very quickly, causing stress and identifying the animals as dangerous.

Stephanie Hoehl, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences said, "This obviously inherited stress reaction 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. A strong panicky aversion exhibited by the parents or a genetic predisposition for a hyperactive amygdala, which is important for estimating hazards, can mean that increased attention towards these creatures becomes an anxiety disorder."

According to other known studies, babies do not have the same stressful or fearful reaction when shown pictures of other known and potentially dangerous animals like a rhino or a bear. Researchers assume this is because, evolutionarily speaking, humans have not coexisted with todays dangerous mammals as long as we have with snakes and spiders.

How long has this tense relationship been going? 40 to 60 million years! We'd say that's enough time to learn to be wary. Perhaps in another 40 to 60 million years humans will evolve to fear exploding smart phones or bad wifi zones.

What are some of your big phobias? Let us know in the comments. 

by Cydnii Jones | 10/28/2017
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