Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why do you hate snakes?

It got a call from a parent the other morning. "Can my daughter bring a snake into class?"

I love it when kids show interest in the outside world. I asked the mom what kind it was. they weren't sure, but someone had cut the head off of it. They thought it might be a copper head.

I wasn't thrilled about a dead snake in my room - it was gonna smell - but this might be a rare opportunity to educate the kids about what a real venomous snake looks like. It is one thing to see a picture, and totally another to see the real thing. This could be a good lesson.

When the little girl got to school, she was excited to show me her treasure.

It was gorgeous. It was an absolutely beautiful red rat snake. 3 feet long and beautiful - but it had no head.

The children and I discussed why we should not kill snakes. Identify them, respect them - don't kill them.

I don't understand the inherent hatred so many people have for snakes.

Here's one scientific theory: Humans and other primates are predisposed to acquire fears of critters that once threatened our ancestors' lives.

Psychologist Susan Mineka. of Northwestern University contends that we have a predisposition to such memories" because our ancestors once had to face snakes, certainly more so than, say, ovens. Because they survived, those who rapidly acquired the fear were most favored in natural

Mineka, along with University of Wisconsin psychologist Michael Cook, put the theory to a test in six rhesus monkeys. Reared in the lab, the animals had no prior exposure to snakes. The psychologists showed a videotape of wild-reared monkeys reacting with horror to snakes. Within 24 minutes, the lab monkeys acquired a fear of snakes.

The psychologists then edited fake flowers, a toy snake, a toy rabbit, and a toy crocodile into the video. Tests later showed that after 40 to 60 seconds of exposure to each object, the monkeys feared only the toy snakes and crocodiles. Of the four objects, only snakes and crocodiles preyed on our ancestors. Coincidence?

I can't explain it. Maybe the psychology is true. maybe people learn their fears. All I can ask is that people educate themselves. How can that be bad?


Isaac said...

My wife is one of those that hates snakes. We see them all the time on a trail near our apartment. Mostly bull snakes, and a few garter snakes and water snakes, but there are supposedly rattlers out there as well. Every time we encounter one I usher my son over to get a better look and even pick a few of the gentler ones up (some of the bull snakes get pretty aggressive) but my wife says that if I ever brought one home or even joke about bringing one close to her I'd have to spend months, not on the couch, but OUTSIDE. Go figure. Hopefully my son will be a bit more reasonable...and I kinda hope he brings a snake home one day! ;-)

Doug said...

My wife is like that too. Teach your son to never put a snake on your napping spouse... They really hate that.


Isaac said...

Sorry to comment on an old post but I thought of this post this weekend when out with my son and wife and ran into 3 BIG bull snakes. The wife steered clear but my son got to touch them! I think he's on the right path... :-)