As humans are the top predator of the food chain, why instinctively are we in some cases scared of small creatures (bugs etc) surely our primal instincts to be the super predator should eradicate these fears?

6 comments

  1. Humans tend to have fears or phobias centered around certain insects, arachnids or snakes. It would make sense to be careful around some of these species as they may be venomous or dangerous to us in other ways. [According to an article](http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fear-of-spiders-became-part-of-our-dna-during-evolution-say-scientists-10156573.html) by the *Independent* which quotes several scientists:

    >Joshua New of Columbia University in New York said: “A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate-specific venoms populated Africa long before hominoids… and have co-existed there for tens of millions of years.”

    [A study in 2013](http://www.pnas.org/content/110/47/19000.abstract) describes snake-dedicated neurons in our brains. Researchers argue these are a legacy of our distant primate past. Interestingly, [in a study published in 2013](http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/desc.12043/abstract), psychologists found no difference in the response to snakes when they compared children who grew up in cities versus children who grew up in rural areas where they regularly encountered snakes.

    [A study was also done](http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/207570) on twins which shows a genetic relationship with fear of snakes and spiders and suggests they may be inherited.

    It’s not just humans who have these fears. [In a 2009 study](http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2009-07135-003), researchers showed macaque monkeys sets of pictures of snakes and flowers. They consistently pointed to a snake faster than to a flower, fascinating because they had never seen a live snake before the study.

    We were also direct competition, predators and prey for snakes as we evolved side by side which would make us warey as well ([Headland & Green 2011](http://www.pnas.org/content/108/52/E1470.abstract)).

    Alternately, some people fear smaller animals due to a bad experience or trauma they experienced having to do with these animals – this is called “conditioned fear” (also mentioned in the *Independant* article in the first paragraph). [A 1997 aticle](http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796797000508) mentions conditioned fear from childhood events.

    There was [a study in 1991](http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08917779208248798) about the fear of spiders. About 75% of participants sampled were either mildly or severely afraid of spiders and those people fearful of spiders reported having a family member with similar fears. This study did not find any evidence of conditioned fear though. It also found that the “legginess” of spider makes people uncomfortable – similar issues with millipedes and centipedes. On the other side of the spectrum, the lack of legs has been shown to be a factor in people’s fear of snakes.

  2. Just because we tend to win against other forms of life on average over a large period of time doesn’t mean we are immune from personal harm. In many cases a fear of a confrontation is rational due to the potential for harm regardless of the opponent. Also we are only the top predator because we use our intelligence to give an upper hand. There are many cases in which we are not the biggest threat of we are caught off guard and alone. In these cases we are pretty pathetic actually…

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