Do infants possess an evolved spider-detection mechanism?

David H. Rakison, Jaime Derringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies with various non-human animals have revealed that they possess an evolved predator recognition mechanism that specifies the appearance of recurring threats. We used the preferential looking and habituation paradigms in three experiments to investigate whether 5-month-old human infants have a perceptual template for spiders that generalizes to real-world images of spiders. A fourth experiment assessed whether 5-month-olds have a perceptual template for a non-threatening biological stimulus (i.e., a flower). The results supported the hypothesis that humans, like other species, may possess a cognitive mechanism for detecting specific animals that were potentially harmful throughout evolutionary history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-393
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptations
  • Cognition
  • Evolution
  • Fear
  • Infancy
  • Perception
  • Spiders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Do infants possess an evolved spider-detection mechanism?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this