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Human Attitude toward Reptiles: A Relationship between Fear, Disgust, and Aesthetic Preferences

1
Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, 128 43 Prague, Czech Republic
2
National Institute of Mental Health, Topolová 748, 250 67 Klecany, Czech Republic
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 238; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050238
Received: 31 March 2019 / Revised: 29 April 2019 / Accepted: 9 May 2019 / Published: 14 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Behavioural Biology)
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Simple Summary

Although there are many articles about reptiles, no one has ever studied the human perception of reptiles as a whole, a group that would include representatives of different taxonomic clades. Thus, we designed a study of human perception of all reptiles focusing on the relationship between perceived fear, disgust, and aesthetic preferences. Respondents evaluated various reptile images and the results revealed that people tend to perceive them as two clearly distinct groups based on their similar morphotype—legless reptiles (incl. snakes) and other reptiles with legs. In the case of snakes, the most feared species also tend to be perceived as beautiful. Compared to the most feared reptiles with legs (lizards, turtle, crocodiles), the legless once tend to be perceived as more disgusting. In both groups, species perceived as the least beautiful were the same as those rated as the most disgusting. Thus, reptiles cannot be rated as both beautiful and disgusting at the same time.

Abstract

Focusing on one group of animals can bring interesting results regarding our attitudes toward them and show the key features that our evaluation of such animals is based on. Thus, we designed a study of human perception of all reptiles focusing on the relationship between perceived fear, disgust, and aesthetic preferences and differences between snakes and other reptiles. Two sets containing 127 standardized photos of reptiles were developed, with one species per each subfamily. Respondents were asked to rate the animals according to fear, disgust, and beauty on a seven-point Likert scale. Evaluation of reptile species shows that people tend to perceive them as two clearly distinct groups based on their similar morphotype. In a subset of lizards, there was a positive correlation between fear and disgust, while disgust and fear were both negatively correlated with beauty. Surprisingly, a positive correlation between fear and beauty of snakes was revealed, i.e., the most feared species also tend to be perceived as beautiful. Snakes represent a distinct group of animals that is also reflected in the theory of attentional prioritization of snakes as an evolutionary relevant threat. View Full-Text
Keywords: reptiles; emotions; fear; disgust; beauty reptiles; emotions; fear; disgust; beauty
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Janovcová, M.; Rádlová, S.; Polák, J.; Sedláčková, K.; Peléšková, Š.; Žampachová, B.; Frynta, D.; Landová, E. Human Attitude toward Reptiles: A Relationship between Fear, Disgust, and Aesthetic Preferences. Animals 2019, 9, 238.

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