There are evolutionary reasons behind most of the animals that humans instinctively fear or avoid, and most of the ones on this list probably won’t surprise you.
Throughout human history, all kinds of animals have posed a threat to people – whether as predators, competitors, or carriers of disease – so it makes sense that we have an innate fear connected with so many of them: we wouldn’t have survived if we hadn’t. Now, though, most of those reasons have fallen by the wayside.
Those instincts, honed by evolution, still make people jump at squeal at the sight of a mouse, no matter that your higher brain would tell you there’s nothing to fear.
A recent study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, identified which animals provoke the strongest reactions of both fear and disgust – two feelings that lead to a phobias – in over 2,000 participants.
10 animals emerged as clear standouts, with the obvious spider at the top of the list in both categories. Researchers believe the reasons include their appearance, the fact that they invade our homes, that they can move fast, and that they pop out unexpectedly.
All valid, if you ask me.
The runner up was the snake, confirming the long-held idea that snakes and spiders are the two animals that people fear the most.
All of the animals that came up as most feared fit into five groups – dry, non-slimy invertebrates (spiders, wasps, roaches), snakes and lizards, mouse-like animals (mouse, rat, and bat), human endo- and exo- parasites (louse, cockroach, viruses, etc), and farm/pet animals (horse, bull, dog, and cat).
The biggest factor in a persons fear and disgust appeared to be gender, with women more likely than men to express both – a trend present in all anxiety-related studies.
Other factors could have influenced the self-reporting in the study, like the fact that still images were used instead of videos, but in the end, it seems to confirm what most of us already know – if it crawls, stings, or carries disease, it can GTFO.
I stand by that assessment. Don’t @ me.