Arachnophobic entomologists: When two more legs make a big difference

Sep 16, 2013

For some entomologists, an apparent paradox exists: Despite choosing a career working with insects, they exhibit negative feelings toward spiders which range from mild disgust to extreme arachnophobia.

An article in the next issue of American Entomologist features the results of a survey involving 41 arachnophobic entomologists who were asked questions about their fear of spiders. Although most entomologists had low scores (indicating mild disgust or mild fear), they still claimed to react differently to spiders than to insects. On the other end of the spectrum, some respondents scored in the clinically arachnophobic range and react to spiders in an almost debilitating manner.

Some of the arachnophobic and arachno-adverse entomologists developed their toward spiders in childhood, well before choosing a career in entomology. These feelings were not overcome in adulthood.

"The results of the study show that arachno-adverse entomologists share with arachnophobes in the general public both the development of response and the dislike of many of the behavioral, physical, and aesthetic aspects of spiders," said Rick Vetter, author of the article. "Paradoxically, I found that despite the great morphological diversity that insects exhibit and despite years of professional exposure to , these entomologists do not assimilate spiders into the broad arthropod morphological scheme. However, for the most part these entomologists realized that their feelings could not be rationally explained. Through the mere existence of the study, several of them took solace in learning that they were not alone with their negative spider feelings."

"Vetter's study illustrates how the fear of spiders found in some may have roots in negative events that happened in childhood," said Gene Kritksy, editor-in-chief of American Entomologist. "This gives us insight on how to lessen this fear in . If parents have a genuine interest in the natural world, including , and they share this positive interest with their children, it could reduce the incidence of arachnophobia in the long run."

Explore further: Meteorite that doomed dinosaurs remade forests

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study shows some spiders have individualized personalities

Jul 31, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers studying the Stegodyphus sarasinorum spider in India have found that individual specimens have different personality traits from one another. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Ro ...

The Society of Biology calls for sightings of house spiders

Aug 23, 2013

Each autumn the number of spiders seen indoors suddenly increases as males go on the hunt for a mate. The Society of Biology has launched a new recording scheme and is asking everyone who sees house spiders to report their sightings. The fre ...

Recommended for you

Transparent larvae hide opaque eyes behind reflections

5 hours ago

Becoming invisible is probably the ultimate form of camouflage: you don't just blend in, the background shows through you. And this strategy is not as uncommon as you might think. Kathryn Feller, from the University of Maryland ...

Peacock's train is not such a drag

6 hours ago

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.

Spy on penguin families for science

14 hours ago

Penguin Watch, which launches on 17 September 2014, is a project led by Oxford University scientists that gives citizen scientists access to around 200,000 images of penguins taken by remote cameras monitoring ...

User comments : 0