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Why people fear bugs | Floss

If a mere photo of a spider throws a chill down your back, you are not alone. Arachnophobia (fear of spiders) is one of the most common phobias, and Western society seems to have a collective dislike for anything scary – from insects like cockroaches and silverfish to myriapods like centipedes and centipedes. While some of these spineless characters can poison us or spread disease, you can usually take out your opponent with a well-placed punch or kick. Why do they often provoke terror?

Survival of the fearful

One theory of evolutionary psychology holds that our fearful ancestors had a better chance of survival than their intrepid counterparts. Someone who, for example, stuck their head in a bee̵

7;s nest while foraging for honey might not live to tell the story – or produce offspring who inherit their ill-advised audacity. On the other hand, those who approach cautiously can walk away unharmed and reproduce with other cautious people. Over millions of years, humans may have developed a predisposition to fear bees, spiders, and other threatening organisms that we colloquially refer to as “beetles”. (Scientifically speaking, true beetles are species of insect in the order Hemiptera.)

“Of course there is no such thing as a ‘fear bee’ gene,” said Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood, entomologist and author of The afflicted spirit: Why people fear, loathe and love insectssays Mental Floss. “However, there is evidence that we have a particular tendency to associate certain stimuli in the form of ‘prepared learning’ with dangers – similar to the way we learn language easily.”

What shortcomings in size they make up for with other qualities which, as Lockwood put it, “push a lot of our fear and disgust buttons.” Their short stature allows them to infiltrate both our bodies and our habitat, and they are able to avoid our punches and kicks with quick, unpredictable skittering (or flying). And while many cannot poison us to death – fewer than 30 of more than 43,000 species of spiders are known to kill people, for example – some, like cockroaches, pose different dangers.

“Because [cockroaches] They feed on human feces and food and can spread disease-causing germs, ”reports the World Health Organization [PDF]. “They also carry the eggs of parasitic worms and can cause allergic reactions such as dermatitis, itching, swelling of the eyelids and more serious respiratory diseases.”

When it comes to injury, allergies, or illness, an innate sense of “better safe than sorry” might explain why some of us jump when we see a slight movement that might turn out to be a mistake. There is no major downside to mistaking a tumbleweed for a spider, or even mistaking a harmless spider for a deadly one.

Creep shows of all kinds

There is a difference, however, between just thinking that mistakes are gross and actually worrying.

“You can tell if someone is mistaken by looking for mistakes, freaking out, or avoiding mistakes at all costs,” says Dr. Jenny Yip, a licensed psychologist and founder of the Renewed Freedom Center in Los Angeles, told Mental Floss.

If you scan the nooks and crannies as you step into a room to make sure you don’t spot a multi-legged guest, there may be entomophobia (fear of insects). Sometimes the jump from “I am intimidated by mistakes” to “I am afraid of mistakes” occurs because you have had bad experiences with a mistake or learned to fear it through direct teaching or just observation.

“Perhaps your great-grandmother was stung badly and she taught your mother emphatically that bees are terrible creatures that can kill,” says Lockwood. “Unless your mother had good evidence [or] The experience of overriding this parental message likely grew into an anxious adult. And if she had you, it would be very likely that she would convey that fearful message … and so on. “

As Lockwood explained in The afflicted spiritMedia and entertainment franchises also convey fearful messages of failure. Aside from butterflies, ladybugs, and a few others that we think are harmless, fascinating, useful, and / or beautiful, most of the bugs get a bad rap on screen. Between NBCs Fear factor, less than subtle films like the 90s Arachnophobiaand all of the innovative pest control ads are continually increasing our reluctance.

These depictions reflect a social shift in the West from earlier rural communities that could distinguish between dangerous and beneficial insects – and some even valued them as sources of food – to contemporary urban communities obsessed with cleanliness. “Diseases, including insect-borne diseases, have hit western societies hard for centuries. So we generalize that every insect is filthy – and if you live in cities there isn’t much of a disadvantage in making such “false positives”, ”says Lockwood.

Face your fears

Avoiding all mistakes, however, is not a productive way to deal with a phobia. In fact, you could accidentally expand it. “Over time, for example, the fear of spiders can spread to other insects such as flying insects,” explains Yip. Instead, she recommends exposure therapy, in which you encounter the error in a very straightforward manner and be prepared to confront it directly.

“First, look at pictures of bugs, watch videos of bugs, go to places where bugs can occur, interact with a toy bug, and finally, actually interact with the real bug,” says Yip.

If you want to get rid of your bug phobia, a clinical psychologist can help you achieve a similar course. And if you are not exactly afraid of mistakes, but still want to forego your bad feelings towards them, you can always choose a mistake-positive film for your next movie night – let’s say: The life of a beetle (1998) or James and the giant peach (1996).

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