Although spider fear is one of the most common and well-studied phobias, UCR-led study shows people are more afraid of scorpions
By Sarah Nightingale on June 13, 2018
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People are more fearful of scorpions than spiders, a UCR study shows.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — “I hate spiders.”
“How do you work with them?”
“I’d rather scoop maggots off a corpse than deal with a spider.”
Those are some of the typical responses Rick Vetter hears when he tells people about his work as an arachnologist at the University of California, Riverside.
“It doesn’t matter if I say they’re beneficial, many people just want them dead,” said Vetter, a retired research associate who spent 32 years in UCR’s entomology department. “Even some of the entomologists I’ve worked with are incredibly afraid of spiders.”
Spiders and snakes reign supreme in the world of animal phobias, but the evolutionary reason for spider fear isn’t well understood. Some psychologists believe it has an innate foundation, since humans may be genetically programmed to fear animals that can cause them harm.
But such visceral reactions to spiders have always intrigued Vetter, who said most of the long-legged arthropods are “easily squishable” and few are harmful to humans. Even those that bite often leave nothing more than a pinprick at first, with more severe symptoms developing hours or days later.
The danger of spiders pales in comparison to another member of the arachnid family: scorpions, whose venomous stings cause immediate searing pain, severe reactions, and sometimes death.
“In terms of innate fear, scorpions would be a much better candidate for aversive reaction than spiders. But as an arachnologist, I rarely hear about peoples’ fear of scorpions,” Vetter said. “Nor do scorpions enjoy the same monster-like status in popular culture.”
With this in mind, Vetter and colleagues from five universities across …