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Exterminate a spider in the bathroom

  1. Apr 21, 2005 #1
    Spiders. Under the biological group of Arachnia. Phobia meaning fear. Arachnaphobia - the fear of anything under the categeory of Arachnia.

    Just 10 minutes ago I was called my my Mother to exterminate a spider in the bathroom. This was one big mother of a spider, about 1 inch in length.

    I suffer from extreme arachnaphobia and any sight of any spider *WHOSH* I am outa there.

    There are countless people suffer from arachnaphobia - the majority of the globe. But why? Why are we afraid of something that's so small, something that can not kill us Well, the domestic house spider in the UK can't - I know Australia is a different story.

    What is it about spiders that's so scary that when we see one it makes us want to gouge our eyeballs out with spoons and run for the hills?

    Appologies if this is in the incorrect forum.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 21, 2005 #2


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    It's like any phobia, there is no specific reason for it. I'm not afraid of spiders and even like the fat hairy "jumping" spiders we have here.

    I knew a girl that had a fear of indoor plumbing. She couldn't go into her basement to do her laundry because there were exposed pipes.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2005
  4. Apr 21, 2005 #3
    Evolved phobias and genetic lag

    ...Because it could kill our ancestors.

    Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University in New York City, said the results of the research by Öhman and his colleagues were generally accepted within the scientific community. "Certainly there are certain stimuli that are pre-wired in the brain because they have been perennially dangerous to our ancestors," he said.

    If spiders can no longer kill us, arachnophobia might constitute an instance of genetic lag.

    The connection of the moral with the genetic is most likely to be overlooked by contemporary one-eyed sociology. But clearly the evolution of a powerful system of within-group cultural moral habits must proceed in association with genetic evolution of tendencies and sensitivities favorable to those values. This is usually completely overlooked in the average historian's account of cultural development (except in Darlington, 1969, McDougall, 1924, and a few others). Yet it is extremely important, as our discussion in Chapter 6 on the culturo-genetic lag principle shows.


    Incidentally, the question of what we are actually doing when we think we are raising the I.Q. directly by education has recently been very thoroughly examined in books by Cancro (1971) and Eysenck (1971). The cost of school education per child — if a fixed standard is aimed at — goes up steeply with lowered I.Q. And time as well as money presents a problem; for thirty years of education might barely suffice to develop certain occupationally required intellectual skills in truly sub-average intelligences. Education of personality and character in the low I.Q. is, however, a more promising possibility. In the inter-group cooperative competition which Beyondism encourages, the relative survival of communities will be determined partly by the cost of their educating their populations (to an agreed common standard). The main determiner of the size of this burden of costs will be the magnitude of the genetic lag.
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  5. Apr 22, 2005 #4


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    The so-called "scientific" theories of phobias on basis of genetics&evolution are just as facile, simplistic as any crackpottish psychanalytic theory ever were.

    Unless you can show that there is a strongly inherited trait in phobias (for example, that a particular phobia is a lot more prevalent in a phobe's family than in the rest of the population) , these genetic theories are basically worthless.

    In short, nobody knows.
    As for myself, I only know that I don't know..:wink:
  6. Apr 22, 2005 #5
    I agree that nobody knows but that is the case with every theory...

    It seems reasonable to assume that is beneficial for survival to be afraid of things that can harm (or even kill) you. It also seems that during a substantial part of our evolutionary history we have lived in an environment in which spiders were dangerous, in which it would be better to jump back whenever you encountered one. So it is believable that the humans that were afraid of spiders had a better chance of surviving and that therefore many of us are still "wired" to fear spiders.
  7. Apr 22, 2005 #6


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    I highly doubt that there was ever a widespread threat to humans from spiders that would result in anything being specifically "pre-wired" into modern day humans where spiders are concerned. The majority of spiders aren't even poisonous. While a lot of people may dislike them, they don't fear for their lives when they see one. It's not like coming across a rattlesnake or a bear.

    Phobias are abnormal or irrational fears. Phobias can be about anything. To suggest they are tied to our ancestor's fears doesn't hold too much water when you consider how many "non-threatening" and new subjects people have phobias about.

    Here are some phobias and a link to a list of them.

    Fear of
    air - Anemophobia
    anything new - Neophobia
    atomic explosions - Atomosophobia
    Asymmetrical Things - Asymmetriphobi
    Bald People - Peladophobia
    Beds / Going To Bed - Clinophobia
    Body, Things To The Left Side of The Body - Levophobia
    Chickens - Alektorophobia
    Clocks - Chronomentrophobia
    Dancing - Chorophobia
    Daylight / Sunshine - Phengophobia
    Englishness - Anglophobia
    Telephones - Telephonophobia
    Thinking - Phronemophobia

    Last edited: Apr 22, 2005
  8. Apr 22, 2005 #7


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    Evo, you forgot ophiciophobia-fear of snakes. I am extremely terrified of any snake, whether it be in a cage or outside, small, large, poisonous or not. On a camping trip once, I was laughed at because I screamed loudly at a small red snake hiding under my tent tarp. It is no laughing matter because the fear can evoke rapid heart rates and shaking. My daughter fears spiders, which I do not, so any time there is a spider near her, I come to her rescue. I completely understand phobias.
  9. Apr 22, 2005 #8


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    I hate snakes too. :surprised I'd rather eat live worms than touch a snake, even a little harmless grass snake.

    Real phobias can be crippling to a person. There is also a difference between a fear of something and a phobia. If your reaction is that strong, it might be more phobic.
  10. Apr 23, 2005 #9
    I think fear is a useful state of mind that helps you survive; it helps one to avoid dangerous situations. Of course nothing is perfectly "tuned" in the biological world and there is a lot of variation. Fear can be assigned to situations that in fact are not dangerous at all. Fear is an important emotion, and like with any function of body or mind things can go wrong. Some fears seem particularly weird, but those are also the ones that are very rare. Often they can be related to the person concerned having bad experiences associated with the thing that is feared now. Such fears are difficult to understand for an objective researcher because they are based on very subjective ways of reasoning.

    However, fear for spiders and fear for snakes is very common, and it seems to me that that is not strange considering our evolutionary history in Africa (many present day monkeys also have alarm calls for snakes). Since fears are not equally likely to be about anything, there should be some reason why they are more often about certain things than about others. Why would many more be afraid of heights, snakes and spiders than of for example air drafts? Presumably this has to do with our genetic make up, and thus with our evolutionary history.
  11. Apr 23, 2005 #10


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    Why the need for GENETIC hard-wiring for fear of spiders? :confused:

    The argument doesn't hold water unless you can show that arachnophobia runs in families rather than popping up in a random fashion independent of blood-lines.
  12. Apr 24, 2005 #11
    It may very well be more frequent in certain families. It is of course not a simple matter since people can also learn to cope with fears or to lose them. In fact fearing spiders is something that would be best to unlearn for most people and I assume many succeed. This will make tracing a genetic disposition by looking at the frequency of occurrence within families problematic since it may be shadowed by other traits like good coping mechanisms.

    I do not see how something like this could be not genetically determined. Of course there is also an influence from your surroundings and the situation in which you live so that you can adapt yourself to your specific situation after you are born (i.e. you learn things), but it seems very unlikely that fearing spiders is something you learn. It is nature or nurture I do not see a third possibility, and since I do not believe it is something you learn I believe it has to be built in. The only question is why would this be in our genome.
  13. Apr 24, 2005 #12


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    " It is nature or nurture I do not see a third possibility, and since I do not believe it is something you learn I believe it has to be built in. The only question is why would this be in our genome."

    Why do you think there isn't a 3rd possibility?
    A child isn't a sort of automaton which only develop personality traits as direct consequences of genetic material and parental guidance; they also develop personalities through a combination of their personality and personal experiences That is, different personalities will react differently to the same experience, propelling different persons along different courses. That we may state that an actual experience remains necessary in addition to their given personality (by genes, to some extent) doesn't mean anything more that the given person wouldn't have developed in that particular direction if the experience hadn't happened.

    Children do not have to be taught everything they'll think from their parents, nor does genetic make-up alone shape their personality, personal experiences on their own is at least as important.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2005
  14. Apr 24, 2005 #13
    I think its common sense to fear things that have been known to bite WITH venom.
  15. Apr 24, 2005 #14
    I agree with what you say here. But there is no third influence there; with "nurture" all influences from experiences are meant. What you will eventually become is the result of the complex interaction between the two, for many aspects the influences of “nature” and “nurture” are difficult to trace like your example of personality. Fear of spiders may also be the result of interactions between experience and genetic predispositions, but I do not think that there is a learned component in fear of spiders (but rather that not fearing spiders is learned). So I believe it is innate.
  16. Apr 24, 2005 #15


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    Where is the information you are basing this on? You've stated this a couple of times, but that is not the current consensus.

    There were many more prevalent, lethal creatures and situations that early man had to deal with other than spiders.

    Cultural Differences in the Perception of Spiders

    "It is possible, of course, that the historical association between spiders and illness might merely represent a rationalization of naturally selected fear of spiders * the real causal factors of which have long since disappeared. However, if this were the case, we would expect fear of spiders to be a relatively universal phenomenon since it should be an inherited feature of the human gene pool independent of individual cultural traditions. Nevertheless, fear of spiders and the association between the spider and disease, infection, and illness found in European tradition is not shared by many communities in other areas of the world.

    For instance, in many areas of Africa the spider is revered as a wise creature and its dwelling places are cleaned and protected by the local people (Renner, 1990). In many areas of the world, including Indo-China, the Caribbean, and Africa, and among the Native Americans of North American and the aborigines of Australia, spiders are frequently eaten as a delicacy (Bristowe, 1932, 1945). In some of these areas, those spiders that are trapped and eaten represent some of the most lethally venomous to humans. Native American children in Brazil frequently keep spiders as pets (Renner, 1990). Finally, many cultures consider spiders to be symbols of good fortune rather than fear, e.g. Hindus in eastern Bengal collect spiders to release at weddings as a symbol of good luck, and in Egypt it is common practice to place a spider in the bed of a newly married couple (Bristowe, 1958).

    This evidence suggests that fear of spiders may not be a pervasive phenomenon. It may be restricted to Europeans and their descendants (the latter having inherited through cultural transmission the traditions, values, and superstitions of their ancestors from the Middle Ages). Unfortunately, there are no cross-cultural studies of animal fears available which would substantiate this prediction, but the author is currently involved in such a survey covering European, American and Asian populations.


    Recent studies of spider phobia indicate that fear of spiders is closely associated with the disease-avoidance response of disgust. It is not immediately clear how spiders might have become associated with this response, although examination of the relevant historical literature does indicate a close association between spiders and illness in European cultures from the tenth century onward. The development of this association between spiders and illness appears to be closely linked to the many devastating and, at the time, inexplicable epidemics that crossed Europe from the Middle Ages onwards. In many areas of Europe, the spider appears to have been a suitable target for the displaced anxieties caused by these constant epidemics; in other cases, its proximity to the real causes of the epidemics may have fostered opportunistic associations between spiders and disease.

    The tendency of Europeans and their descendants to be fearful of spiders does not seem to be shared by people in many non-European cultures, and this is not consistent with those evolutionary accounts of spider fear which suggest that spider fear should be a common feature of the human gene pool regardless of culture (e.g. Seligman, 1971). However, it is consistent with the present thesis which argues that spider fear developed as a result of the association between spiders and disease in Europe after the tenth century."

    http://www.psyeta.org/sa/sa2.1/davey.html [Broken]

    Are many spiders poisonous to humans?

    No! Most are too small to bite through skin, venom not adapted to humans, too little venom, not in same place as humans. All bites have 2 fang marks.

    In US, only four groups are poisonous. Black widow, brown recluse, hobo spider, yellow sac spider*.

    http://www.entomology.cornell.edu/Faculty_Staff/Rayor/Spiders/FAQ.html [Broken]
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  17. Apr 24, 2005 #16
    I am basing this on the reasoning that I explained in my previous posts. I am suugesting that among the early ancenstors of humans in Africa the ones that feared small "creepy crawlers" had higher survival chances, and that therefore some of that is still in the genepool of current humans.

    I think that the people in cultures that like spiders have learned to do so. The other option would be that people that fear spiders have learned to do so. I do not believe that people fearing spiders fear them because their social environment has indoctrinated them that spiders are dangerous disease bringers, as Davey suggests. I think it is exactly the opposite: people tell you that you should not fear them. The cultural differences Davey points out probably exist because the social environment in some cultures learn young people not to fear spiders but to see them as a delicacy, fortune bringers etc.

    Yes and those probably also still have an impact. There many more things that we fear.
  18. Apr 24, 2005 #17
    There is no consensus about this, there are different opinions on this issue. Hitssquad has posted some links (in post #3 of this thread) to people who believe it is genetic. I have also read this opinion in Steve Pinker's book "what the mind is" and in more places.
  19. Apr 24, 2005 #18


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    You didn't read his links, did you?

    The first link to an article in National Geographic states "McNally questions, for example, whether mammals really have evolutionary cause to be afraid of spiders. Only 0.1 percent of the 35,000 different kinds of spiders in the world are poisonous, he noted.

    Öman acknowledged that more research is needed to bear out the findings of the new study, but he contends that a fear of snakes, at least, seems to be shaped by evolutionary influences."

    His second post discusses mostly religion and does not address the fear of spiders.
  20. Apr 24, 2005 #19
    Oh ok, Indeed I did not read them, still this idea can be read in many places, and I have never read or heard arguments that I find convincing that claim that these fears are not in our genes. Where would they come from?
  21. Apr 24, 2005 #20


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    Perhaps you are thinking more along the lines of instincts for self preservation. We automatically respond to anything that could potentially harm us. How much of this response is in relation to what we have learned to be dangerous or what we might "know" to be dangerous without being taught is an interesting question.

    Spiders being "genetically hardwired" as a threat seems "iffy" to me. It doesn't mean it's impossible, but when you look at the actual threat they posed to humans, and comparing it to other life threatening situations our ancestors dealt with I can't imagine spiders being on the same level as a bear, wolf, tiger, lion, or disease and infection.

    Still, fear of spiders is one of the more common fears in Western culture. It's an interesting topic to discuss. It seems to be culturally bred into people, so will it one day actually become "genetically hardwired"?
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