Abstract # 159:

Scheduled for Sunday, August 27, 2017 10:45 AM-11:00 AM: (National Ballroom Salon A) Oral Presentation


G. E. King
Monmouth University, 8523 Reservoir Rd., Fulton, MD 20759, USA
     Interactions with snakes have provided insights into primate psychology and ethology. Results have generated hypotheses about human evolution. Observational and experimental research has revealed multiple components of snake responses that can be placed in developmental contexts. However, since pivotal work by L. Isbell, comparative study has been limited. This paper addresses hypotheses about primate perceptions and behavioral mechanisms in response to snakes. It is especially concerned with analyzing the components of those responses in terms of similarity among primates, including humans. Most importantly, inconsistencies in results are examined via systematic comparison and they are resolved or explained where possible. The size of snakes emerges as a key stimulus that has remained largely unexamined. Small snakes (like many models in experiments) produce mild responses. Snakes that are dangerous to primates in natural habitats, and therefore likely to produce strong reactions, are large (e.g. pythons and mambas). Recent findings regarding human snake responses have largely paralleled the research on primates. Comparative data indicate the following conclusions for primates, including humans: (1) multiple components in perceptual and attentional mechanisms, including shape, movement, coloration, and size; (2) multiple components in behavioral responses and underlying mechanisms, including fear, aggression, and curiosity; (3) variation among species in some aspects of perception and response; (4) similarity and probably homology in other aspects; (5) learned and developmental components in various responses, especially fear.