Monday, September 16, 2013

Conditioned responses*

I was having a discussion on Facebook today. It started out about spiders and morphed into snakes -- two creatures people (especially women) are afraid of.  Just a glance, a thought, and they're shuddering.


I understand many spiders and snakes are poisonous, so I imagine we humans have discouraged hanging out with the creatures as a safety issue since Neanderthal days.  Still, we have brains don't we?  Why can't we reason?  "Wolf spiders are harmless and, in fact, are actually beneficial to have around."  Or, "Garter snakes are warm, smooth and harmless and are even kind of pretty."

Why does a photo like this of a Wolf Spider taking good care of her babies make most folks want to run screaming:

When a photo like this, of a duck mama doing exactly the same thing elicit "Awwww... how sweet" responses?

Isn't it a shame that we can't break free from this conditioned response?  Isn't it too bad that so many folks can't see past the outside of something in order to see that they're really not so bad?

It goes further than bugs. 

This animal is frequently feared and vilified:

Whereas we see a dog like my puppy, and everyone assumes she's a sweetheart:

And it's about people, too.  We look and see a kid with a Mohawk and tats and think the worst.  We judge based on size, clothes, race...

For some reason, hearing the folks hating on spiders and snakes really made me sad today.  So I felt the need to share.


anno said...

I have a hunch that we are wired to find creatures that are more similar to us -- and especially most similar to our babies: big eyed, soft, and round -- more endearing. Thus, mama spider, with her spiny legs and spiny gray babies inspires people to bring out the pesticides where mama duck, with her soft, fluffy, warm-colored ducklings elicits all the sweetness.

I sure found a similar reaction in myself last fall, teaching reluctant writers who came from largely impoverished urban areas. It was hard to get past the tats and the piercings and the belligerent posture, but a relief to find the sweetness and hope that was still there. Made me realize: the armor is there for a reason.

So, I guess I'm just echoing you here. In general, if you're not food or a threat, most creatures are going to leave you alone. Knowing that, it would be nice to simply marvel at the amazing diversity in this world.

Marianne Arkins said...

Anne, I struggle with the knee jerk reaction to people who appear threatening as well ... working on that one myself.

I have a sister who's covered in tats ... barely a spot that doesn't have ink. She's helped me get past THAT notion at least, though I still don't think it's particularly attractive, at least I don't run screaming in fear. *G*

Brandy said...

Spiders don't bother me. However, I will admit snakes freak me out. I think it's because they seem so totally alien to us. While I don't have any tats, I try very hard not to judge those that do. It's their body, their choice.

Maria Zannini said...

I don't have anything against any one particular species (except scorpions) but I have the uncanny luck for finding snakes and spiders.

I get bitten regularly by spiders even when I'm minding my own business. While I appreciate their good work, I insist they do it outdoors. Snakes have the added restriction of not keeping company with my chickens. I've lost more eggs to them than I can remember.

Unknown said...

I think any animal has their loveliness.