The infested mind: why humans, fear, loathe, and love insects.

The infested mind: why humans, fear, loathe, and love insects. Jeffrey A. Lockwood.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Octavo, dustwrapper, black and white photographs.

The psychological connections between humans and insects are tantalizing and complex. Through both evolutionary associations and cultural representations, insects have deeply infested our minds. They frighten, disgust, and sometimes enchant us. Whatever the case, few of us are ambivalent in the face of wasps, cockroaches, spiders, maggots, crickets or butterflies. They arouse terror, nausea, fascination-but rarely, if ever, indifference. And the costs of fear can be high, both in terms of the quality of individual lives and with regard to our social responses, from soaking our food with insecticides to overlooking our dependence on the ecological roles of insects (including those on the brink of extinction). The book is an examination of what scientists, philosophers, and writers have learned about the human-insect relationship. Jeffrey Lockwood is an entomologist himself and yet still experiences bouts of entomophobia; in fact, his seemingly paradoxical response to certain insects and scenarios is what prompted him to write this book. The book explores the nature of anxiety and phobia and the line between them.
It examines entomophobia in the context of the nature-nurture debate, posing the question: how much of our fear of insects can be attributed to our ancestors' predisposition to avoid insects to benefit their own survival, and how much is learned through parents? Using his own and others' experiences with entomophobia as case studies, Lockwood breaks down common reactions to insects, distinguishing between fear and disgust, and inviting the reader to consider his/her own emotional, cognitive, and physiological reactions to insects in a new light.

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