Scorpion Detection in Humans: An Initial Investigation

EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium
Volume 14, Special Issue 1, 2024

Scorpion Detection in Humans: An Initial Investigation

Andrew C. Gallup & Sabina M. Wozny

Previous research suggests humans possess psychological adaptations to minimize contact with ancestrally threatening animals, including the rapid detection of some key predators. While the visual prioritization of snakes, spiders, and lions has been well-studied, similar work has not yet been conducted for scorpions. Yet, these dangerous arthropods have likely also been a recurrent survival threat for our species. Scorpions have an extensive and long evolutionary history with mammals, are widely distributed geographically, and the stings from some species can be lethal. Moreover, recent studies show that scorpions elicit high levels of fear and disgust. Thus, humans may also possess psychological adaptations for the rapid detection of these creatures. Here, we tested this hypothesis in a sample of 35 college students in the northeastern United States using a standard target-discrimination task with images of scorpions and grasshoppers (a non-threatening control stimulus). Contrary to our predictions, we show that the average latency to detect scorpions and grasshoppers did not vary significantly across trials (p > 0.05). However, scorpions did elicit significantly more fixations when they were included as distractor stimuli (p = 0.01). Overall, these results provide mixed support for the visual prioritization of scorpions.


How to cite this article:
Gallup, A. C., & Wozny, S. M. (2024). Scorpion detection in huamns: An initial investigation. The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium14(Sp. Iss. 1), 14-27.