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What role does evolution play in the development of phobias?

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What role does evolution play in the development of phobias? Throughout time the survival of humankind has been threatened by the continual inventions by human which have threatened everyday existence with inventions like guns and bombs thus in the 21st century humans are faced with a huge amount of everyday dangers regarding these threatening stimuli. However, it seems that humans generally, still feel more threatened by threatening stimuli experienced by our ancestors like spiders and snakes, even though these are of a less of a threat to human survival in the 21st century. Indeed the stimuli experienced by our evolutionary ancestors still appear in the top ten phobias experienced in the 21st century, (Stillwell 2004). ...read more.


The idea combines evolutionary ideas about phobias with the conditioning theory. If this idea was correct, we would expect that humans and our evolutionary ancestors would show a fear of these evolutionary relevant stimuli more readily than a fear of evolutionary irrelevant stimuli. Indeed there is research to support this ideas, with regards to our evolutionary ancestors Mineka et al (1987) exposed na�ve laboratory monkeys to a number of fear relevant stimuli (snakes) and fear irrelevant stimuli (flowers) and observed their reactions; the monkeys appeared to display no fear to either stimuli. The researchers then conditioned an experienced demonstrator monkey to behave fearfully in the presence of both the relevant and irrelevant stimuli and then showed the video of the monkey displaying these attributes to the na�ve monkeys. ...read more.


but with humans displaying a fear towards slides with images of snakes on rather than the slides with flowers on, when teamed with an electric shock showing a pre-dispositional quality within humankind. It appears that such fears are easy to explain in evolutionary terms because it seems that many of the most common phobias do relate to the expected adaptive problems faced by our ancestors and there's evidence that these occur across cultures (Buss, 1999). Consider, phobias of cars and guns are extremely rare, yet phobias of spiders and snakes are very prevalent despite the fact cars and guns are stimuli; which are the greatest danger to society, yet spiders and snakes pose the least danger to society in the 21st century. In conclusion the research evidence would suggest that evolutionary factors do play a role in the development of phobias. ...read more.

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