Are we born afraid of snakes, spiders, heights and strangers?

At 13 years old, Annalina DuChene has cuddled up to more reptiles and arachnids than most adults do in a lifetime.

“They’re not going to hurt you as long as you don’t hurt them, really,” Annalina says. “Unless you are poking it and getting your finger in its face, they’re most likely just going to leave you alone.”

As the owner of a pet tarantula and a four-foot-two-inch corn snake, she is perplexed as to why children and adults are so fearful of her hairy and slithery friends.

“I don’t know. I guess because it’s unfamiliar.”

A U.S. research review conducted by two psychology researchers suggests otherwise.

Vanessa LoBue, of Rutgers University; and Karen Adolph, of New York University, argue babies’ fear is largely interpreted in past studies on the subject. The researchers analyzed studies about fear in infancy, specifically involving spiders and snakes, heights and strangers.

They found “although these three types of ‘scary’ stimuli are often grouped together as ‘fear-inducing,’” the infants responded differently towards each one.

LoBue and Adolph pinpoint numerous studies that show more of an interest or fascination over fear.

For example, in one study, nine-month-old babies tried to pick up moving snakes on a screen. In another study, toddlers spent as much time watching a snake and spider in a terrarium as they did a hamster and fish.

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