UVA study: Humans skeezed out by snakes

UVA study: Humans skeezed out by snakes

Yes, it’s true: People are scared of snakes. Or maybe we’re focusing on the negative. This from two researchers in the UVA psychology department, Vanessa LoBue and Judy S. DeLoache, whose study gets some exposure in the July/August issue of The Atlantic. The pair asked 120 young kids and their parents to look at photos of snakes and flowers and measured their reaction times in picking out a threat (one snake photo among eight flowers) and a non-threat (one flower photo among eight snakes).

Not only did the adults pick out the snake more rapidly than the flower, the kids did too. They also found the snake faster when it was surrounded by non-threatening creatures like frogs and caterpillars. Conclusion? Humans may have "an innate predisposition to see a snake as a threat," as the Atlantic puts it. Our instincts make snakes’ unique physical characteristics stand out like neon signs to our brains.

Hissy fittest: Evolution has given us a brain tuned to snakes.

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