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Girls Wired To Fear Dangerous Animals 224

Foot-in-Mouth writes "New Scientist reports that girls are more "primed" to fear spiders and snakes, compared to boys. Infant boys and girls were shown pairs of images, a fearful and a happy object (such as a spider and a flower), measuring the boys' and girls' dwell times on the images. And in another similar test, normally happy objects (such as a flower) were given a fearful face and fearful objects were given a happy face. The results of these two tests suggested to the researcher that girls are not wired to fear spiders, for example, but rather girls are wired to more quickly learn to fear dangerous animals. The researcher, David Rakison at CMU, 'attributes the difference to behavioural differences between men and women among our hunter-gatherer ancestors. An aversion to spiders may help women avoid dangerous animals, but in men evolution seems to have favoured more risk-taking behaviour for successful hunting.' This reminds one of men's obsession with video games. Will game designers use this information to tweak video games for gender, either to make the games more or less frightening?"


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Girls Wired To Fear Dangerous Animals

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:05PM (#29415599)

    i.e. mice

    • by Taibhsear ( 1286214 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:34PM (#29416051)

      Mice bite. Bites get infected and transmit diseases. It makes sense evolutionarily speaking. Boys grow to be men and need to be able to not be afraid (or at least keep that fear in check) while hunting so that they can focus on the kill. Girls and women tended to be more on the gatherer side (why they can see colors better amongst other things) to pick fruit and what-not. Spiders and bugs and slithery things would be more dangerous to them than men since they'd be more likely to encounter them. Screaming when in fear alerts the tribe to danger and the higher pitch of their voices seems like it would travel better than a guttural manly tone.. Makes perfect sense to me.

      • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:48PM (#29416237) Journal

        Another possibility (not saying yours is wrong, but this "correction", is probably another factor).

        [..] It makes sense evolutionarily speaking. Boys grow to be men and need to be able to not be afraid (or at least keep that fear in check) while doing stupid but impressive things to show potential mates that they are strong. [...]

        • Boys grow to be men and need to be able to not be afraid (or at least keep that fear in check) while flushing that "5mm2 raisin with legs" down the toilet.


      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by thepooh81 ( 1606041 )

        Screaming when in fear alerts the tribe to danger and the higher pitch of their voices seems like it would travel better than a guttural manly tone..

        Actually the higher pitch is better because it is less omnidirectional (i.e. you can tell where it's coming from) than a lower pitch. This is why police/fire/medical vehicles have high pitch sirens, so you can tell where they are coming from easier.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tftp ( 111690 )

        Mice bite

        If you are catching a mouse in a cardboard box with your bare hand then the cornered mouse will eventually bite. But in an open land any sane mouse will do its best to run away. Attempts to bite a creature 100x larger than the mouse will only force it to come closer to the danger, and most likely will not be effective.

        • The average body mass of a mouse is about 35 grams. The average body mass of your typical American female is 74.4 kilograms.

          Thus, the size difference is actually closer 2,125 times. The mouse doesn't stand a chance.

    • by TheLink ( 130905 )
      The plague killed quite a lot of people.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Trollus Slashdottus?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:05PM (#29415605)

    Foot in mouth is right. The title and the summary contradict.

  • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:06PM (#29415619)

    Will game designers use this information to tweak video games for gender, either to make the games more or less frightening?

    Tweak video games for gender? You mean like Sims 4 with the man-eating toilet seat?

    Wow. I just freaked myself out.

  • What about female aversion to mice? They aren't dangerous.
    • I always thought the mice thing was a construction of television, much like the toilet seat wars. I've never once seen a girl who reacts to a mouse with anything other than "Awwwwwwwwwwww, look at the mouse". Certainly never seen anybody, male or female, jump on a chair and shriek. Now, I've seen girls freak out at rats, but not out of fear of the rat. Out of television induced germophobia. "My god, it's full of disease, quick, get the antibacterial soap and the antiviral lysol aerosol spray! I'm sure
      • Re:mice? (Score:5, Funny)

        by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:25PM (#29415905) Journal

        I always thought the mice thing was a construction of television, much like the toilet seat wars. I've never once seen a girl who reacts to a mouse with anything other than "Awwwwwwwwwwww, look at the mouse".

        I've seen a girl jump on a chair and shriek when a mouse scurried through the room. I've also been berated for leaving the toilet seat in the wrong configuration. Your anecdotal experience completely goes against my anecdotal experience, and guess whose anecdotal experience I tend to trust more?

        • So, between your one girl once and at least two villages in my experience which didn't even look twice at a mouse, guess which one I'm going to trust more? :P

          But that actually raises a good nature vs learned behaviour question. Was that girl actually wired that way, or had she learned from movies that that's the expected behaviour?

          • Re: nature vs. learned behavior, TFA wasn't suggesting that girls are hard-wired to fear mice per se. Rather it suggests that they are hard-wired to fear animals they've learned are dangerous. I don't know what "villages" you've been to, but I'm guessing that mice were relatively common there and the people had no reason to consider them dangerous.

            So basically, TFA claims that girls are wired to fear dangerous animals whereas boys are wired to face dangerous animals without showing the same level of fear.

        • It's not symmetric through. Multiple cases of no reaction, few cases of a fearful reaction. That implies that the reaction is not hard wired. Most of the women I know were not raised in a rural environment, so I doubt they have overcome a hardwired fear, but rather, have just never acquired a cultural fear. Having seen it would disprove me if I was saying it never happens. But, I'm only saying it doesn't always happen. I'm also talking about a truly frightened reaction, rather than a startled reactio
          • The question isn't so much "fear of mice" as it is "fear of danger".

            Of course, anything that is startling is potentially dangerous until we figure out what startled us. The question is more how we deal with our phobias, not so much just which animals we fear. How we treat phobias is nature (hard-wired); which animals we fear is nurture (learned).

        • I've seen a girl jump on a chair and shriek when a mouse scurried through the room.

          For what it's worth, my male roommate exhibits the same behavior. I get called whenever any non-pet quadruped or insect is sighted. It's just like living with a girlfriend, except without the sex.

          • Sounds like he needs to be properly trained. A few rubber snakes and plastic spiders in his bed (and scattered in other strategic locations) should do the trick.

            If he doesn't move out, he'll get used to them.

            • (Yes, I realize that neither snakes nor spiders are either quadrupeds or insects... although I suppose you could get some scissors and make two quadrupeds from a single plastic spider.)

        • Re:mice? (Score:4, Funny)

          by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @02:42PM (#29417173) Homepage

          Oh yeah? Well I've seen an NFL linebacker jump five feet straight up when he saw a mouse. Then a woman grabbed it with her bare hand and bit off its head. Then she looked right at me and said "That's what'll happen to you if you leave the seat up again."

          guess whose anecdotal experience I tend to trust more?

          Probably not the anecdotal experience that was obviously just made up... for shame.

          • I'm guessing, "the evidence that came from the particular breed of woman you're trying to survive amongst". I'd trust that, too...

            • Re:mice? (Score:5, Funny)

              by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @03:12PM (#29417639) Homepage

              True that! It doesn't really matter if some other women are afraid of mice or not or if they don't care about toilet seats if the one you're with threatens to cut your junk off in your sleep if they fall into the toilet, or if you look at other women, or try to leave. (please help).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Zordak ( 123132 )

        I always thought the mice thing was a construction of television, much like the toilet seat wars.

        I see you've never lived in the same house as a woman. I suggest you get married, try leaving the toilet seat up a few times, and then try your post again. For best results, go to your in-laws' house and leave the toilet seat up there. It won't do any damage. Chances are your mother-in-law doesn't like you anyway ;-)

    • Re:mice? (Score:5, Funny)

      by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:18PM (#29415805)

      Actually I've noticed a HUMAN aversion to mice. A couple of mice in a room will often make a 250lb flanel-wearing truck driver hop up on the table to get away.

      I'll admit, they freak me out too. I went into the shed in my back yard to clean up a good while back. I had some scraps of carpet stashed in there that were left over from when I'd built a speaker box for my car. I picked up the pile and mice - dozens of them, just scattered everywhere. I'll admit, I shrieked like a girl and ran for mah life . . .

      • I'm not frightened by mice in the least. I think they're adorable. Even when I find them someplace unexpected, my reaction is usually "Awww". Even after one of the fuckers has bitten me.

        Rats, on the other hand, are a different critter. For one, compared to mice they're huge. Also compared to mice, they're much more likely to be aggressive if they're even close to cornered. And they look evil.

        Though pet rats or lab rats don't bother me. Even the rats scurrying around the tracks in the NY subway don't

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nadaka ( 224565 )

        I am no fan of mice. I once woke up in the middle of the night to notice a mouse sitting on my foot and eating the skin from my toes. I spent the rest of the night sitting in the dark in the middle of my apartment with a pellet gun and a flashlight. Every time I heard it scurry I would spot light it. The first time it was in front of my computer. The second time it was in front of some glass dishes. The third time I cought it in the open, and took a shot as it jumped jumped 3 feet towards some shelves. I ma

        • took a shot as it jumped jumped 3 feet towards some shelves. I managed to hit it center of mass from about 10 feet.


    • Actually, is there one? Mice are a fact of life in rural areas. I can't imagine women being able to function at all in, say, medieval Europe if they were wired to shriek and jump on the table at the sight of one. Rats and mice were really that common.

      Heck, even in the 20'th century, I've seen more than one when visiting either grandma as a child. And that's not counting the ones the cat used to bring us. And I don't remember anyone freaking out.

      Honestly, other than in Hollywood movies and cartoons, I can't

    • What about female aversion to mice? They aren't dangerous.

      I beg to differ. []
  • The whole "men are manly men born to hunt" conclusion seems to be just repeating what we've been taught to believe. There's no proof for that, and really no reason to even believe it. It's a blind guess. Speculation is great except when it's confused with science.
    • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:25PM (#29415909)
      No reason to believe it? I mean sure it is kind of speculative, but over the whole of history, that's been the way it's been done for the vast majority of civilizations. What you're suggesting is probably even more speculative than that. Men being typically larger and stronger clearly doesn't indicate anything, neither does anything about the distribution of brain mass. On top of that, for organisms that have live young, it would be decidedly inconvenient for the primary hunter to be largely out of commission for the better part of a year before giving birth. Yes pregnant women can do a lot, but it's not a good step evolutionarily for the hunter to also be with child.

      Yes it's pretty speculative, but suggesting that it's a blind guess requires real ignorance of both history and biology.
      • by stagg ( 1606187 )
        MOST large game hunting has been done my by men, in MOST human societies. However, human society has almost never relied on hunting large game for survival. When hunting is a subsistence activity it still tends not to require a large percentage of the population's efforts or take a substantial amount of their time. Pregnancy is unlikely to be a factor in preventing women from hunting, except for a comparatively brief period in an individual's life, and child rearing obviously doesn't have to be a woman's
      • Well, except for lions. In lions, the male is truly massive compared to the females. But the male just sits there sleeping, easting, and having sex, and also occasionally eating its own young so the females will want to have more sex to repopulate. So, a larger male doesn't necessarily mean the male is the hunter. It could also mean that the male protects the rest of the group while the females are away hunting smaller prey that needs a fast hunter, rather than a massive pile of muscle, in order to brin
      • Except it's not that clear at all, so, yes, _I_ will call it blind guesses.

        For a start, the evolution of the homo species has involved _reducing_ sexual dimorphism. All along the line we moved from disproportionately larger males than females and males with born natural weapons (e.g., bigger teeth and jaws) to something more gender-equal than any other ape. Clearly there wasn't as big a need for big males protecting weak females.

        Also, if you're actually looking at primitive cultures, you must be looking thr

  • British scientists have uncovered why little girls like pink toys []. "Women are hardwired to like pink," says Professor Gene Hunt of the University of Metro, "because their cavewoman foremothers spent their days gathering red leaves and berries amongst the trees." Later, women needed to notice red-faced babies and blushing boyfriends. Men are attracted to blue because of the colour of the sky as seen when hunting.

    Women are also predisposed to backstab one another in the workplace and cry in the boardroom, just like the social structures in the cave population as extrapolated from two bone needles. Being too successful will increase women's testosterone, giving them hairy nipples and male-pattern baldness. Females joining the hunt may also explain the end of the Neanderthals.

    IQ test studies show that women have lower IQs on average than men, undoubtedly from lesser need for environmental variation while taking care of the cave. Tests on little boys prove that testosterone correlates with a sense of humour, so women naturally can't take a joke. Housework has been shown to cut the risk of several fatal diseases, and dressing up nicely around the house is psychologically healthy as it uses the Homo erectus clan maintenance abilities of the female of the tribe.

    Men are naturally predisposed to sleep with as many women as possible, as proven by lions, whereas women are naturally predisposed to stay loyal to their man and their spawn. Women who sleep around are at increased risk of parasites and death, as proven by cheetahs, who are a pack of catty sluts.

    In a final crowning achievement, the team has shown that daily fellatio greatly reduces the incidence of breast cancer. Furthermore, regular sexual intercourse is essential to feminine health, but may be injurious if prolonged for more than two minutes or conducted while the man is sober.

    "In conclusion," says Professor Hunt, "all of this is top-notch science that you can absolutely rely on. Now get your knickers back on and make me a cuppa."

    • I find your ideas intriguing, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
    • Now this is science I can stand behind.
    • Best. Troll. Ever!
      • Troll, how dare you sir! Everything except the last two paragraphs is actual "news" stories. Evidently our caveman ancestors are alive and well and working at Associated Newspapers in London.

        • by gaspyy ( 514539 )

          Yep, I actually remember reading these "studies". I won't bother googling for them, but they are out there.

          The only thing I want to know is - are these studies publicly funded? And how can I apply for some grants for my research? I'm pretty sure I can come up with some very insightful findings, like the importance of watching football on TV...

    • Best response to this article I could think of. I haven't (and won't) take the time to read the study, but when I see "conclusions" like this, I'm quite skeptical. Maybe it's true, but the whole idea seems rooted in sexism.

      Personally, I F$#%@! hate bugs, and I'm a dude. My wife doesn't mind so much. I grew up in the city, she grew up in the country... see a correlation there???
      • You can tell when it's August or September and there's no proper news to print: the papers print an article saying the sexist notion of the day is proven by "our caveman ancestors".
    • Whether by accident or because you may be depressed and suicidal, it appears that you may have allowed your real name to appear at the top of this post. Regardless, I have great respect for your courage in the face of what will doubtless be a very unpleasant fate.

      Where should I send the flowers? Or would you prefer a donation in your name to an appropriate charity?

    • I believe this is about as reliable as most "evolutionary stories" I hear.

  • Does everything have to tie back to video game design? I think we're being a little one-track-mind here. Sometimes things just are and we'll see what people make of them. This research is so general, one could pose the question "Will directors/writers/teachers/coaches/lawyers use this information to tweak movies/literature/education/sports/representation for gender?"

    • by Oloryn ( 3236 )

      I think we're being a little one-track-mind here.

      Welcome to /.

    • yes but does it run linux

      lets invest heavily in cybernetic research and brain-computer interfacing and install linux into the brains of women. it can be called fembuntu distro, airy alphafemale. there will be no question now as to what women are thinking or how they think but there will also be no accountability or tech support. until the bugs are ironed out, kernel panic will cause women to suddenly fixate angrily on one little thing. interacting with women will be confusing for everyone except the nerd
  • Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:29PM (#29415973)
    My daughter used to pick up spiders with her bare hands when she was 3, as well as dance on shelves 11 feet off the ground and climb out of second story windows. I had to intentionally terrify her a few times to teach her fear, but now I've trained her not to touch spiders. She still has no problem handling garter snakes. Her mother, coming from a part of the world where many venomous snakes are found, is so terrified of all snakes that she cannot even bear to see them on TV. So are all her relatives, so we have had the situation where an adult male refused to hold a garter snake I caught in the yard, but a 6-year old girl didn't have any problem with it. (By the way, garter snakes actually are venomous, but their venom teeth are in the back of their mouth and there are no known incidents of them biting people.)
    • Her mother, coming from a part of the world where many venomous snakes are found, is so terrified of all snakes that she cannot even bear to see them on TV.

      Yet she still loves to handle the trouser snakes... sorry, I had to do it.

    • Well I remember a garter snake biting my older brother a couple of times on the hand. But he probably didn't get a bite like a small animal might as the snakes mouth was rather small.
    • Your daughter is going to be a very butch lesbian.

  • I find it rather humorous that it is considered so taboo to say that maybe, just MAYBE, men are discrimnated against as well. Don't believe me? As a male, also kinda a large guy I'm 6'3" and 220, I also happen to LOVE kids. And not in the have some candy and get in my van way, in the oh my God have candy and a pony and if you smile I might just steal a space shuttle and go to the moon to get you moon rocks, kinda way. Living in America if I so much as "Oooh, awwww" over a small child, especially if it is female, I am treated as a pervert. Not just sometimes, but 99% of the time. I found a lost crying child in Wal*Mart and I bought her a sucker and put her in a stroller going aisle to aisle to find her parents. I was tackled from behing by security with no verbal warning what so EVER. It hurt like hell and busted my nose. I am now terrified to so much as smile at a child, even my own small cousins. The thing is that every male habit is viewed as bad from the get go and we have to fight to prove it is useful. I work two jobs, my father is dying of cancer, my mothers mill was outsourced, and neither of them graduated High School. I support me, my parents, my ex wife, putting my oldest cousin through ACC, while taking guardianship of his sister while she completes school because both of her parents are now in jail. I come home, I cook, I clean, make sure everyone is okay, laundry is done, homework is done, medication is taken. If I decide to spend two hours shoving bayonets in the throats of other dudes in Call of Duty what right do you have to say I shouldn't? It is a stress reliever. Am I addicted? It depends, it doesn't interfer with my life so I would say no, but I do enjoy it very much. It is time to put aside our "beliefs" about what is male and what is female and look at it from a completely open point of view. Let us start all over with new ideas and create a new comprehensive study using double blind standards, then find out is it male/female, is it race, religion, upbringing, or does it simply vary wildly from person to person? I am thinking it is the latter, I find demographics studies to be prebiased and largely absurd.
    • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @02:02PM (#29416423)
      If you find a lost child, you take them to customer service. They have a PA system, much more effective than "going aisle to aisle".

      Yes, most of the "gender differences" we see are primarily nurture, not nature. Even if you don't brainwash your own daughter, trust me, other kids will.

      As an adult male, I too find it depressing that I apparently cannot be trusted around children, but my daughter's male teacher and principal can (strange double standard). Unfortunately, I do like kids, in the sense that I want to see them be happy. And, as creepy as I am, little girls adore me. Why? Because, unlike most adults, I actually pay attention to them, and treat them like human beings. Which apparently is something that their paranoid parents are failing to do. I believe giving your kids the time and attention they crave would protect them much better than training them to fear all strangers. The "stranger danger" myth is bullshit - the vast majority of child abuse is perpetrated by people the parents know, those same school staff and relatives that the parents trust unconditionally.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know but you certainly came off creepy as all hell in that post.

  • I'm not sure about girls being afraid of snakes and spiders and such but is weird that I'm spooked if not afraid of the ad in the page about "Dora Saves The Crystal Kingdom. Try it free! Nick Jr Arcade"?

  • It may not be that females learn faster that Dangerous Bug is Dangerous, but that males are programmed to be less cautious in order to make them investigate just HOW dangerous it is, thus providing useful information (in case it turns out to actually be harmless and/or tasty).

    And sending the male into battle with the unknown will serve as an excellent boost to natural selection.

    Her: "Aaagh! Look out! That will kill you! Run away!"
    Him: "What? Are you sure? It looks all furry and cuddly... Here, I'll just pok

  • Which do you fear more:

    Spider []


    Flower []

  • The phobia doesn't extend to frat boys, bikers, and republican congressmen.

  • No, this isn't meant to be flaimbait. I just always wonder, do such studies include as subjects, men who might be considered 'effiminate', or women who might be considered 'masculine'?

    The reason I ask is because, if they don't, it seems to me like the researchers are self-selecting for a particular outcome? How do these studies/hypothesis account for such . . . "non-typical"(?) individuals?

    • by JSBiff ( 87824 )

      On further reflection, since this is a study on babies, I guess such distinctions can maybe be entirely excluded, as one would have no idea how the babies might eventually develop.

  • I am all for scientific research and evidence study, but since I started with buddhism, it always struck me why cannot we think backwards, as in girls fear spiders not because simple because they are girls, but they are born girls because they fear spiders. After all the gender is decided at one point after inception. Likewise boys like video games because they are born boys because they like video games. No direct evidence suggests that because girls express fear when looking at images of spiders, it is be

  • Would that make all the demons from hell into sad flowers that need a hug?

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller