Has Evolution Etched Fear Into Our Behavior?
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September 30, 2009

Has Evolution Etched Fear Into Our Behavior?

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Evolution has hidden post-hypnotic suggestions in your behavior.  You may think you're the absolute master of your emotions, but that whole "consciousness" thing is just a thin scraping of self-awareness over a huge network of evolved drives and compulsions.  If you can honestly say you're not affected by your subconscious wiring then we're flattered, because we didn't think many Buddhas read this site.

Some excellent experiments in behavioral research were conducted by Professor Susan Mineka in the eighties. She worked with monkeys and videotapes, and unlike most recorded work featuring monkeys from the eighties, hers did not feature skateboards, wacky escapes from inept hitmen or even a single harebrained scheme to raise funds for the local youth center.  It was about fear.

Wild monkeys are deathly afraid of snakes - to the point where they'll starve to death rather than reach across even a fake snake to get food.  Since learning this fear by experience is a literally short-lived solution, this fear was thought to be hereditary. Monkeys born in captivity exhibited no such fear, however, which seemed to hole the hereditary idea - until Mineka got together some primates for the ultimate horror movie.

By showing some monkeys footage of a wild monkey utterly terrified of snakes, she triggered the same hysterical responses in those who had never seen the object of fear, would never see it and were never going to be at any risk from it.  We can't comment on whether the Department of Homeland Security read this research.  Further, attempts to trigger a fear of flowers by showing fake footage of a monkey scared of plants failed. It seemed that the "snakes suck" wiring was always there, but until it was externally triggered it never manifested.

The same research also showed how to combat these phobic trip-switches:  by showing them a monkey that wasn't scared of snakes, even if that was a fake monkey, the terror-reaction was strongly reduced.  Which technically means you could make a child immune to letting them watch Chuck Norris movies when young.  Because all these phobic-factors seem as applicable to humans as they are to other primates, with applications in child-rearing and anxiety management.  They weren't just doing this research because somebody wanted the job "monkey frightener."

Posted by Luke McKinney.

Genes affect phobias http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/ridley03/ridley_p5.html
Anxiety Disorder research http://www.loc.gov/loc/brain/emotion/Mineka.html

Comments

Dianetics

Great picture, Luke.

I created the Fear Mongering YouTube Satire 1-31-07: Never Forget that features it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNEZJqVjoDg

Also have a related submission for today in the form of the coming Enviropocalypse...

http://www.mepreport.com/2009/09/three-ways-to-deal-with-the-impending-enviropocalypse/

"you could make a child immune to letting them watch Chuck Norris movies" should be "you could make a child immune to *fear by* letting them watch Chuck Norris movies"

Might have something to do with a fear of God. Primitive man were attentive to many fears that could not be explained and passed that fear on through generations. During the middle ages those that did not believe were executed so one did not even question the existence of a God. Today it's OK not to believe and many have overcome their fear of a Universal supreme power.

Mike

@ Mike:

You have it backwards. What actually happened was at some point in history some people invented or inferred the existence of a god, and from that point on, instilled the fear of such a being in future generations who never knew a time before such a concept. Over time, as scientific understanding of the universe advanced, some were more convinced by the explanations it could offer based on research and observable fact, rather than fantastic speculation based on old stories. Besides, what you describe only covers Judeo-Christian or indigenous volcano-god type of situations. Different cultures have developed widely different concepts of god or gods, some of which are feared and some praised and beloved. Also, the logic of your last two sentences is deeply flawed. The fact that there were people being burned for heresy would prove that there were people at that time questioning the existence of god. Finally, I fail to understand why a "universal supreme power" is something which would have to be feared. That concept was introduced because fear is the easiest method of controlling the behavior of most people, and organized religion was the basis for early developed societies. Not necessarily for some underhanded purpose, but as a matter of pragmatism.

on further reflection, i think fear of god probably arose at a time when early societies were subject to a system of climate, seasons, and random destructive natural events that they had no way of properly understanding. When trying to reconcile why a supreme power would allow or cause something like famine, hurricane, disease or the like, the first natural, self-centered thought was that such a power must be displeased with them as a group. at some point, educated and/or critically thinking people must have realized this was not the case, but those involved in organized religion and management of society kept this concept around for purposes of control.

Well, in fact people use only 5% of brain capacity. That is why it is possible that subconsciousness had even greater impact on our life than consciousness.

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Hi! Primitive man were attentive to many fears that could not be explained and passed that fear on through generations. During the middle ages those that did not believe were executed so one did not even question the existence of a God. Today it's OK not to believe and many have overcome their fear of a Universal supreme power.
Thanks lot.


By studying the monkey's habits and characteristics, we can learn a lot about our human beings. Their applications in child-rearing and anxiety management are similar to human. Susan make great efforts to do research about them, looking forward to reading more.

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on further reflection, i think fear of god probably arose at a time when early societies were subject to a system of climate, seasons, and random destructive natural events that they had no way of properly understanding. When trying to reconcile why a supreme power would allow or cause something like famine, hurricane, disease or the like, the first natural, self-centered thought was that such a power must be displeased with them as a group. at some point, educated and/or critically thinking people must have realized this was not the case, but those involved in organized religion and management of society kept this concept around for purposes of control.

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Really impressed! Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. It contains truly information. Your website is very useful. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more!

This is really interesting research in Monkeys. I go through the links provided here. I must say susan Mineka has done the great job on fearful and fearless monkeys in the environment. Thanks for sharing such a great information on this single page.

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