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Thread: Evolution of Aversion

  1. #1 Evolution of Aversion 
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    ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2008) — Some of the oldest tales and wisest mythology allude to the snake as a mischievous seducer, dangerous foe or powerful iconoclast; however, the legend surrounding this proverbial predator may not be based solely on fantasy. As scientists from the University of Virginia recently discovered, the common fear of snakes is most likely intrinsic.

    Evolutionarily speaking, early humans who were capable of surviving the dangers of an uncivilized society adapted accordingly. And the same can be said of the common fear of certain animals, such as spiders and snakes: The ancestors of modern humans were either abnormally lucky or extraordinarily capable of detecting and deterring the threat of, for example, a poisonous snake.

    Psychologists Vanessa LoBue and Judy DeLoache were able to show this phenomenon by examining the ability of adults and children to pinpoint snakes among other nonthreatening objects in pictures.

    “We wanted to know whether preschool children, who have much less experience with natural threats than adults, would detect the presence of snakes as quickly as their parents,” LoBue explained. “If there is an evolved tendency in humans for the rapid detection of snakes, it should appear in young children as well as their elders.”

    Preschool children and their parents were shown nine color photographs on a computer screen and were asked to find either the single snake among eight flowers, frogs or caterpillars, or the single nonthreatening item among eight snakes. As the study surprisingly shows, parents and their children identified snakes more rapidly than they detected the other stimuli, despite the gap in age and experience.

    The results, which appear in the March 2008 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, may provide the first evidence of an adapted, visually-stimulated fear mechanism in humans.


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  3. #2  
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    It's not that surprising. I suspect our fear of snakes is more ancient than the human species, even. I might be wrong, but most mammals fear snakes and other dangerous animals.
    The interesting part comes when we evolve a fear of moving cars and junk food.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Most primates fear snakes. They even have specific alarm calls that they make whenever a snake is sighted.

    I myself like to wonder when the deer begin to get very smart about crossing roads, considering the rate that they get hit by cars and how many populations are reproducing like crazy (lack of natural predators).
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    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    Believe this or not: I have actually witnessed the innate aversion to snakes in primates. One of the attractions at the Kruger National Park here in South Africa is the fact that baboons regularly climb onto cars, play with the wipers and generally goof off. An old favourite joke to play on these baboons is placing a bag with rubber snakes onto the roof. The baboons of course can never contain their curiosity and invariably puts it's hand in the bag and takes out what is inside for inspection. The moment they take their hand out with a fist full of rubber snakes they almost pass out with fear and some of them even crap themselves! Ah the childhood memories....
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    Forum Bachelors Degree Shaderwolf's Avatar
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    Yeah.... washing my mom's car because I let a babboon take a crap on it :wink:
    (for the record, I've never been to africa)

    What about people who aren't naturaly afraid of snakes? They are interested? does that mean there's something wrong with them?

    what if you filled the streets with rubber snakes... I'm sure that after a while the babboons would become used to them and ignore them, wouldn't they? if they were anamatronic maybe, would the babboons lose their natural fear of snakes after not being bit by what seems to be dozens of snakes?
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  7. #6  
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    I wouldn't say there's something wrong with snake owners. There's variation in virtually all genetic traits, and if there's no selective advantage of being scared of snakes (like in areas with no or only harmless species), the loss of this instinct is a likely if not inevitable result.
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  8. #7  
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    I have an aversion to housework.

    Every time i think about doing it i feel faint and have to go and lay down whilst taking my mind off it with a good book.
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