Humans Wired to Fear Snakes

Scientists find innate ability to discern slithering critters in the wild
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2008 4:42 PM CST
A 14-foot Burmese Python weighing between 75 and 85 pounds climbs a wall of it's cage, Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, in the exhibit "Lizards & Snakes   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Evolution seems to have given humans a hard-wired ability to recognize snakes and spiders, LiveScience reports. Intrigued by the widespread fear of serpents despite the fact that most humans rarely interact with them, researchers showed groups of adults and 3-year-olds natural scenes containing various hidden animals. Both groups were consistently able to find snakes and spiders faster than other animals.

Coupled with the enhanced ability to discern snakes, young children also have a predisposition to learn to fear snakes if they encounter them or even see scary portrayals of them on TV. "Throughout evolutionary history, humans who detected the presence of snakes very quickly would have been more likely to pass on their genes," one researcher said.