This website is dedicated to the research of human perception of animals. You can take part in several studies focused not only on the aesthetic beauty of animal kingdom but also on fear and disgust that some animals may elicit in humans. A team of zoologists and psychologists developed a battery of questionnaires and picture stimuli that will reveal something about your emotions and attitude toward animals.
Under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Frynta, our group has been studying emotions and phobias triggered by animals for many years. We are based at the Faculty of Science of Charles University in Prague and National Institute of Mental Health in Klecany. The character of both facilities is reflected in how we approach the studied subject, combining biological knowledge of the tested animals with advanced methods of psychological experiments. Besides classic questionnaires, we also use a cutting-edge technology in our projects such as the eye-tracker, polygraph, or functional magnetic resonance.
Due to a long co-evolutionary history, the animals represent an important psychological stimulus to humans that attracts our attention and evokes a whole variety of emotions, from positive to negative ones. Apart from joy and pleasure associated with the perception of animal beauty, animals often elicit fear or disgust that may lead to the development of specific phobias. Among all types of anxiety disorders, animal phobias are the most prevalent affecting up to 5% of the population, hence our research interest in it.
Our main focus in three points:
1) Positive and negative emotions evoked by animals. Our focus is to examine behavioural, neural, and physiological correlates of emotions when viewing animals on pictures, videos, or as live specimens.
2) Specific relationship of humans to snakes and spiders. Snakes and spiders may evoke terrifying fear in many people and are the most common phobic stimuli. Some of them posed a real threat already at the dawn of the mankind or much earlier, at the time of our primate or even mammalian ancestors. This deeply rooted fear has remained within our minds until today. That is why, in our research, we concentrate on specific fear of snakes and spiders.
3) Evolutionary psychology of phobias. We examine whether the animal phobics differ in any way from people with a normal level of fear. Based on those results, we aim to reconstruct the evolutionary relevance of certain animal species to different basic emotions. Besides that, we also try to uncover the biopsychological mechanism behind the onset of animal phobias that might lead to the development of more efficient behavioural therapies.