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New Study Reveals That People Fear Scorpions More Than They Fear Spiders

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Whenever you hear of a phobia related to those creepy crawlers known as insects and arachnids the first one that almost always is mentioned is the fear of spiders, arachnophobia. Our fear of spiders has been studied extensively, but one arachnologist discovered that it might not actually be spiders that we fear the most. The study demonstrated that people actually fear scorpions, another arachnid, more than they fear spiders. How afraid of scorpions do you think you really are?

Rick Vetter, an arachnologist at the University of California, Riverside, is used to being told often about people’s fear of spiders, even fellow entomologists. While spiders and snakes tend to be at the top of most people’s lists of phobias, scientists have not been able to concretely find the evolutionary reason behind our fear of spiders. The most popular belief among psychologists is that our fear of spiders is innate, as we humans are programmed in our very biology to fear animals that can cause us harm. Vetter, however, found a problem with this explanation. The extreme visceral reactions people have to spiders simply don’t make much sense. Few spiders are actually harmful to humans, and most of them are easily dealt with with a simple stomp of the foot. He pointed out that even the spiders that can cause us harm have bites that don’t even hurt or develop serious symptoms until hours or even days later.

Vetter saw scorpions as creatures that we should have a much higher innate fear of than spiders. Scorpion stings can cause immediate agony, much more severe bodily reactions, and even 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.” Intrigued by this idea, Vetter and five of his colleagues traveled to Universities across the country, and studied our fear of spiders and scorpions among 800 students. They were expecting to get the typical answer that they feared spiders most. The researchers used a questionnaire in order to measure the students’ fear of scorpions and spiders and were shocked at the results. All of the students that participated proved to be more afraid of scorpions than spiders based on their results. Vetter now hopes this will inspire more research to be done on our fear of scorpions. “By adding scorpions to the research mix, psychologists might be able to get a better understanding of arachnid fear in humans,” he said.

Do you think you are more afraid of spiders or of scorpions?