A new study shows humans are especially adept at seeing spiders even when not paying attention to surroundings.
Researchers asked college students to look at lines shown on a computer monitor and then choose the longest line. Each participant executed the task three times. On the fourth time, in addition to the lines, another image flashed on the screen for just 200 milliseconds. When the image was of a hypodermic needle, less than 15% of participants were able to notice it, pinpoint its location on the screen and identify it. Additionally, only 10% noticed, located and identified the image of a housefly. When the image was of a spider, more than 50% of participants were able to notice, pinpoint and identify.
Lead author and evolutionary psychologist Joshua New of Barnard College says, “A central body plus radiating segments – that’s the template you need to (turn on) this super-responsive awareness.”
New suggests the research proves an evolutionary trend in which human ancestors developed a talent for noticing spiders to avoid highly poisonous spider bites. In order to prove this point, the study also monitored the response of those with arachnophobia VS those without the fear. Research subjects with arachnophobia were no more likely to detect the spiders. This seems to indicate an overall primal wariness rather than an acquired fear.