You’re not a very arachnophobic bunch

I tallied up your responses from that post about arachnophobia, and took a quick look at the distribution. Several of you complained that you had no idea what the range should be — that was intentional. You’re not supposed to be trying to fit yourself into a particular bin, you should be just answering for yourself. There’s no judgment here!

But if you’re curious, here’s the source with some general numbers. Serious arachnophobia — where the fear is actually debilitating and impairs a person’s life — is relatively rare, less than 5% of the population. There isn’t a magic number in the score that says whether you’re an arachnophobe or not. As many of you also noted, the questions are fuzzy and subjective, and as you might expect, produce a range of results. It’s a continuum — some people want to hug & kiss & love widdle spiders forever, others are horribly repulsed by them, and others are in the range from take ’em or leave ’em to “oooh, icky”. Here’s what I saw in this group of 113 participants (not a scientific poll, obviously, with a self-selected group and arbitrary participation, etc.)

Most of you are way down on the scale! It’s probably a biased sample here — I’ve chased away all the deeply arachnophobic types. I got a few responses on Facebook, and they tended to be somewhat higher than blog commenters, but the numbers are too small to come to any strong conclusions.


  1. Curt Sampson says

    Why do you believe you’ve “chased away all the deeply arachnophobic types”? I’m not keen on spiders at all, but I simply don’t read those posts, or at least don’t look at the pictures (and definitely not the videos). I still took the quiz.

  2. angela78 says

    I think that very arachnophobic people would not take the test at all -they don’t even want to think about spiders.
    In general, I’d bet two bananas that on average a test about spiders has more probability to attract non arachnophobes.
    Also: “You’re not supposed to be trying to fit yourself into a particular bin, you should be just answering for yourself”.
    Ok PZ, but why should I spend time to get a meaningless number? At least provide a reference, like in this post.

  3. Snidely W says

    but the numbers are too small to come to any strong conclusions.

    Oh come on, there’s a p value in there. You’re just not tryin’ hard enough.

  4. says

    5% arachnophobia seems higher than I’d expect. How interesting!

    Does this mean that spiders have a chance in 2020? Because I think they’re pretty honest about their agenda.

  5. says

    I’ve seen numbers around 2-7% — it’s a rather waffly kind of value. I’d shriek if I were bitten by a brown recluse, am I arachnophobic.

  6. says


    You got the reference/context that allows you to make more sense of your number, you just got it AFTER the test, not before. As is appropriate. Why are you whining that you don’t get something that PZ just gave you?

    And if you don’t understand why you’re not supposed to have information about categories associated with the numbers before you take the test, then you don’t have even a rudimentary understanding of psychological or sociological research. What PZ did wasn’t unfair: it was necessary.

    If you’d like, though, you can always send a letter of complaint to UMM’s human research ethics review board to see if they agree that setting up an informal internet poll on one’s blog without prior ethics review is unethical, even when that informal internet poll simply asks people to report back answers from a survey instrument that probably did get prior ethics review. I’m sure that their response to you will be … enlightening.

  7. Mark Jacobson says

    robertbaden @ 9

    Yeah, but spiders having arachnophobia tends to be more of a rational fear.

  8. robert79 says

    5.0 here, which would classify my as a slightly scared non-arachnophobe, even though I typically kill spiders on sight. Preferably using non-touchy/squashy methods like flushing them down the drain with boiling water. (I love animals, I refuse to eat them or generally hurt them, spiders and wasps are the exception though… with wasps the feeling’s mutual, with spiders it’s entirely irrational on my part.)

    Are you sure this scale is calibrated right?

  9. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    I guess there is some arachnophobia there for me, after all, then. Minor, perhaps, but unlike for spiders, I don’t feel the need to squash or remove wasps at all. I was stung as a kid a few times, but ever since I stopped attacking them, they don’t bother me at all. I even let them crawl on my skin to more closely observe them. :-)
    Spiders, meanwhile, I don’t run away from, but I’d be kind of repulsed to let them touch me. I either catch them with a glass and sheet of paper to release them outside or I catch them in tissue paper and drop them down the toilet…
    That difference in treating two similarly harmless, non-aggressive sorts of animals would seem to show I have an irrational fear, albeit manageable, of spiders, but not wasps.

  10. beardymcviking says

    I didn’t do the test because I assumed there would be pictures of spiders, and even pictures make me intensely uncomfortable.

    On the other hand, I’ll often come across red backed spiders while cleaning up in the shed, and that’s ok as long as I’ve got gloves on.

  11. taraskan says

    Like others here, I didn’t even click on the test when it was originally posted because I thought there would be gratuitous photos of spiders. Reading these comments told me it was safe to take, and I scored 27.

    So yeah, text-only spider updates para mi por favor.

  12. Matrim says


    With wasps it really depends on the species. Mud daubers are really chill and almost never sting unless you try to grab them or something. Bald faced hornets, on the other hand, will sting with almost no provocation.

  13. Muz says

    I find it difficult to answer those questions because it’s completely size dependent. If the critter is smaller than 50 cents, legs and all, I really don’t care that much. Even of dangerous ones like redbacks. Bigger than that and they start to prod some nerve and must be avoided/dealt with.

    No other bugs do this either. It seems very related to the octoped body shape (as well as size). I had an object lesson in this once; I was playing computer game ages back (called Thief, if you’re wondering). First person 3d, atmospheric affair. On one level if you took this old lift down a mine I knew there was a big bug living there about 2 feet/half a meter long. It was dark down there so I could only see its body and I assumed it was a big beetle. So long as I thought this I would just run around it, tease it into attacking me and get out the way etc. I wasn’t terribly worried about it. Then I let it chase me into a lit corridor where I could see it was a giant spider! AAAARGHHHHH. Couldn’t go near it or that area again for a while.
    Before I knew and could see it had eight legs I was fine.

  14. angela78 says

    @8 Crip Dyke
    Judging from what I read in your answers, your reading and understanding skills are zero.
    I didn’t write you should get detailed information beforehand.
    I didn’t write PZ didn’t provide the info in this post.
    I did write that, after completing the poll, you get a meaningless number. Knowing that I scored 2, or 35645275, or pi, is totally irrelevant if you don’t provide the min-max values. According to your smartass reasoning, the poll should not even provide that number…
    Almost every online poll goes like this:
    * Hi, take this poll:
    * Thanks for completing it. This is your score: x, on a scale from y to z

    * this is how your score relates to the others who took the test insofar.

    Easy. Clean. Funny. You get some kind of feedback.

  15. Curt Sampson says

    @angela78 writes,

    Judging from what I read in your answers, your reading and understanding skills are zero.

    Actually, on a brief read, I understood it the same way that Crip Dyke did, so you should consider that the problem with that post might have been your writing skills.

    Saying that her “reading and understanding skills are zero” is clearly either wrong or hyperbole that’s going to make communication worse, so there’s evidence right there that you have problems with your writing.

  16. angela78 says

    My communication capabilities are far from perfect, also considering that English is my third language (and American is not even in the list).
    That said, let’s see what I wrote:

    Ok PZ, but why should I spend time to get a meaningless number? At least provide a reference, like in this post.

    How can this be interpreted in the sense that I want to have all the info beforehand? The poll in itself gives you nothing but a number, while -as a minimum- it should provide you three. It’s not that difficult to understand I think.

  17. angela78 says

    Do you mean the link in the page after the one that gives you the score?

    The page where you land if you click on the link titled “You are now done with this survey: Now click here to leave this website.”?

    Reminds me of the beginning of “the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy”, How was that again? “[…] It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

  18. Matrim says

    It’s literally one extra click on a link you’re explicitly told will take you to the PsyToolkit text. Hardly major obfuscation.

  19. John Morales says

    Meh. I got a 5, and I’m the least arachnophobic person I know.

    OTOH, I’m not an arachnophile, either.

    Doesn’t it seem strange to other people that to not be a purported arachnophobe one should score 2.7 on a scale of 0 to 31?

    (Remarkable skew, to say the least)

  20. bobphillips says

    I didn’t take the survey until today–score 0.0. But then, I’m an entomologist. Re, brown recluses: their danger is greatly over-hyped. Much of the injury attributed to them is from secondary infections from staph, etc. Also, many spider “bite” records are from physicians who take their patients’ accounts at face value without a specimen (for example: patient was rummaging in shed, gets stabbed by a splinter, sees spider running away, assumes was bit by spider). I think you would find interesting (has color L. reclusa photos too!): Vetter, R. S. 2008. Spiders of the genus Loxosceles (Araneae, Sicariidae): a review of biological, medical and psychological aspects regarding envenomations. Journal of Arachnology 36: 150-163.

  21. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    I am selectively arachnocidal … the wolf spiders, humongous Kukulcania and jumping spiders get relocated to outside. The black widows MUST DIE!

    Because we have black widows, and Scolopendra heros (giant venomous centipedes), and tarantula hawks and caterpillars with toxic spines, and rattlesnakes I am wary of any critter until I have identified it.

  22. John Morales says

    PZ, are you inclined to incorporate the additional responses since accrued in the original post?

    I think it would gratify late respondents, and also the distribution is at first glance somewhat different to the original.

  23. angela78 says


    […]we have black widows, and Scolopendra heros (giant venomous centipedes), and tarantula hawks and caterpillars with toxic spines, and rattlesnakes

    Nice place you live in. What is called, Deathworld, like in Harry Harrison’s book?