Thursday, March 13, 2008

Innate fear of snakes in young humans

Monkeys very rapidly learn to fear snakes simply from seeing another monkey react fearfully to the presence of a snake. There has been a question of whether our human aversion to snake forms requires such learning, or might develop autonomously. Experiments by LoBue and DeLoache support the idea that our visual systems employ an innate developmental sequence to develop a heightened awareness of snake like forms very early in development, independent of actual direct or indirect experience of snakes. 3-5 year olds preferentially attended to snake pictures, even compared with pictures of caterpillars (as well as pictures of flowers or frogs), and this preference was the same in the presence or absence of previous exposure to snakes or snake images.
A preschool child identifying the single flower target among eight snake distractors by touching the flower image on a touch-screen monitor.


  1. Anonymous7:58 PM

    Do you have the reference for that study about monkeys learning to fear snakes more easily than for other things?


    Bradley Cooke

  2. It would be back in my old files in Madison, so I just googled "young monkey snake fear" to come up with a book chapter by Susan Mineka (I suggested looking her up further).