Ever seen an insect, like a cockroach, and felt a deep shiver of disgust crawl down your spine? There’s a reason we evolved to have this response to pests – here’s the science behind your recoil.
Ever seen an insect, like a cockroach, and felt a deep shiver of disgust go down your spine? Some insects are not just revolting but rather can be seen as a psychological gateway to a gargantuan list of traumatic experiences. I’ve seen my wife – who rarely ever runs from anything (except for ice scream) bolt across the room faster than The Flash at the sight of a common house spider.
This has always made me wonder why humans respond the way we do. In this this blog we will look at the science being our fear filled response
“Shriek!! What was that?”
Is a common response to the sight of insects scuttling across our living room. Did you know that in Chapman University’s 2016 Survey on American Fears, 25 percent of respondents said they were afraid of insects and/or spiders. That’s more than the number of people who feared becoming the victim of a violent crime!
Upon further research I learned that this reaction is triggered by our fight or flight response, a trait we got through evolution. Dr Christian Grillon, PhD, a psycho-physiologist who studies fear and anxiety at the National Institute of Mental Health, states that an imminent threat evokes a phasic fear response, which is an active coping mechanism characterized by fight or flight. He goes on to elaborate that a more distal or uncertain threat generates a more persistent state of anxious apprehension and hypervigilance. This directly plays into our fear of insects as half the time we find them lurking in the shadows and areas where we least expect them.
Is it scary or disgusting? I don’t know, just keep it away!!
Did you know insects are found scary because our brain often confuses disgust with fear? Unlike the fear of dangerous animals – such as lions and sharks – our fear of insects is tightly bound to our feeling of disgust.
Psychologists attribute this type of fear to what they call the “revulsion response” – an overwhelming feeling to reject and get the source of the feeling away from you. Psychology Professor Paul Rozin states that it stems from the mind trying to protect the body from harm. This is similar to how one would fear eating food that they deem disgusting, or the sight of a rotting carcass. So the fearful reaction at the sight of an insect therefore, often indicates that it isn’t safe to consume or touch.
Pests Home Invasion
There is – however – another theory proposed by Dr Jeffery Lockwood (author of the book “The Infested Mind – Why Humans Fear, Loathe and Love Insects) in which he states that “Now that we’ve moved into urban environments where close quarters and hygiene are at a premium, we find that the vast majority of our interactions with insects are negative in that they are the things that are invading our homes and our private spaces.”
Therefore the sight of insects perhaps makes us feel unsafe in what is supposed to be our “sanctum sanctorum”, the invasion represents a threat to our beloved home. This can be seen as the reason why many people don’t find insects terrifying when met outdoors.
With this being said should you have a pest home invasion “fear not”! A quick call to our local pest control specialist will sort out the the problem.