Women Have Real-Life Spidey Sense. Men, Not So Much

Female fear of spiders and other icky creatures might just be genetic, according to a new study

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Ladies, have you ever gotten that creepy feeling something’s crawling on you in your tent, and you immediately have to do the freak-out dance? Don’t feel bad: your fear might just be genetic. A new study by Carnegie Mellon University psychologist Dr. David Rakison suggests that women are four times more likely than men to fear spiders and other creepy-crawlies.

According to the study, published in New Science, Rakison showed 10 baby girls and 10 baby boys a series of photos depicting a fearful human face with a spider, a fearful human face with a flower, and a happy human face with a spider.

The results? The girls spent a comparatively longer amount of time staring at the picture of the happy face and a spider; where as the boys were emotionally indifferent . (Typical).

Researchers concluded that the baby girls stared longer because they were confused by the image of a spider and happiness side by side (I would be, too). Rakinson chalks these findings up to good ol’ fashioned hunter-gatherer instincts; he thinks that women are ingrained with certain child-protecting character traits that make them more cautious of harm-causing creatures like spiders and snakes. Men, however, are born with more risk-taking traits that allow them to “go big or go home” when on the hunt, so their lack of fear is actually advantageous.

Plenty of tough females work at BACKPACKER, and they’re not afraid to spend days on end playing in the dirt, so would a widdle-ol’ spider really scare them? Driven by our insatiable curiosity, we took an in-house BACKPACKER poll to see if Rakison’s theory matches up to the real world.

We asked 13 staffers if they were deathly afraid of spiders (both men and women), and here’s what we got:

Women: 5 ‘Deathly Afraid,’

2 Not

Men: 2 ‘Deathly Afraid,’

3 Not

It’s not exactly what one might call conclusive or scientific, but our straw poll results seem to match Rakison’s findings. Between that and personal experience, I’m inclined to believe it.

And ladies, the next time a guy makes fun of you for jumping across the room and calling for help when you see a spider, just tell them to go hunt something. Like that spider.

So how about it, ladies of the Internet? Are you afraid of spiders? Tell us in the comments section below.

—Jordan Olmsted

Girls ‘born with fear of spiders’ (BBC News)

Girls are primed to fear spiders (New Science)

Image Credit: ewen and donabel