Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Detecting the snake in the grass

05.03.2008
Adults and very young children apparently have an innate ability to very quickly detect the presence of a snake from among a variety of non-threatening objects and creatures such as a caterpillar, flower or toad, according to a new study by psychologists at the University of Virginia.

The study appears in the March 2008 issue of the journal Psychological Science. The paper is available for download here in pdf format.

"Our finding matches with the evolutionary theory that humans have a pre-disposition to quickly identify a snake," says Vanessa LoBue, a post-doctoral fellow in psychology at U.Va. "Throughout the course of human evolution, humans who could quickly visually detect the presence of snakes were able to survive and reproduce, thereby passing this capability on in the gene pool."

LoBue and her colleague Judy DeLoache, a U.Va. professor of psychology, showed three-year-old children and adults photographs of snakes and various flora and fauna on a touch-screen monitor to see how quickly they could distinguish the snake or snakes from the other creatures or natural objects. They found that both children and adults were very good at nearly immediately identifying a snake from among the non-threatening images, but clearly not as good at finding a non-threatening image from among several snake photographs.

"Unlike adults, three-year-old children don't have much experience with snakes – particularly negative experiences – but they can detect snakes very quickly, much more quickly than non-threatening objects," LoBue notes.

She and DeLoache also found that both children and adults who don't fear snakes are just as good at quickly identifying them as children and adults who do fear snakes, indicating that there may be a universal human ability to visually detect snakes whether there is or is not a fear factor based on a learned bias or experience.

LoBue and DeLoache emphasize that their study does not prove an innate fear of snakes, only that humans, including young children, seem to have an innate ability to quickly identify a snake from among other things. One of their previous studies indicated that humans also have a profound ability to identify spiders from among non-threatening flora and fauna. Lobue has also shown that people are very good at quickly detecting threats of many types, including aggressive facial expressions.

DeLoache and colleagues in her lab specialize in understanding cognitive development and how people, particularly children, process symbols.

Fariss Samarrai | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.virginia.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Virtual "moonwalk" for science reveals distortions in spatial memory
18.11.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Autonomous Agriculture in 2045?
15.11.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Experimentelles Software Engineering IESE

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Atoms don't like jumping rope

Nanooptical traps are a promising building block for quantum technologies. Austrian and German scientists have now removed an important obstacle to their practical use. They were able to show that a special form of mechanical vibration heats trapped particles in a very short time and knocks them out of the trap.

By controlling individual atoms, quantum properties can be investigated and made usable for technological applications. For about ten years, physicists have...

Im Focus: Images from NJIT's big bear solar observatory peel away layers of a stellar mystery

An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.

With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...

Im Focus: New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden demonstrates manufacturing of copper components

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...

Im Focus: New Pitt research finds carbon nanotubes show a love/hate relationship with water

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.

New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...

Im Focus: Magnets for the second dimension

If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.

Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Black carbon found in the Amazon River reveals recent forest burnings

20.11.2019 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Outback telescope captures Milky Way center, discovers remnants of dead stars

20.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

The ever-changing brain: Shining a light on synaptic plasticity

20.11.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>