28 January 2019

How do you feel about tarantulas? Giant snails and cockroaches? What about a ten foot python?

First year Psychology students have been coming up close and personal with all of these creatures, and many more, as The Creepy Crawly Show visited the College.

The Psychology department’s annual Creepy Crawly Day offers a unique opportunity for students to learn more about human behaviour and phobias in a fun, practical and interactive way, which always initiates lots of further discussion, as they get to address their fears, or lack of, of the weird and wonderful beasts brought into their lessons.

Students got to literally get their hands on spiders, snakes, snails and more, and were talked through each animal’s behaviours and habits. Some battled through their own phobias to take part, whereas others jumped at the chance to get involved, with some even lying on the floor and allowing the ten foot python to slither around them.

In a perfect example of addressing whether phobias are rational or irrational, the Creepy Crawly Show presenter explained that, having worked with all of the ‘dangerous’ animals in their collection for many years, none has ever caused any incident; none except for Little Tim: the cute-looking Madagascan Tenrec, who bit his finger down to the bone.

Explaining what the students were taking from the sessions, Psychology teacher and Assistant Principal, Amanda Hoey, said: “The first year students are currently studying ‘The Approaches’, each of which have very differing explanations and theories in addressing the commonly posed question: ‘Why do we behave in the way that we do?’

“In the biological approach, we have discovered that phobias may well be a genetically inherited behaviour that enhances an individual’s likelihood of survival. Take the common phobias of spiders, for example: those who fear spiders will find the encounter anxiety provoking and run away from it, therefore they are more likely to survive, reproduce and pass on the trait of fearing spiders. Unfortunately for those that don’t possess a phobia of spiders, they remain in its company and may well get bitten, poisoned and fail to survive.”

Amanda continued: “In contrast to phobias being innate, we also discuss Pavlov’s theory of Classical Conditioning – learning through association. This proposes that phobias are learnt, usually through negative past experiences. When we go onto studying psychopathology, we revisit this theory and discuss treatments such as Flooding and Systematic De-sensitisation to help treat those who are no longer able to function effectively in daily life due to severe phobias.

“Students have been able to enjoy the rare chance to see these animals up close, discuss why these animals are fear provoking and discuss the physiological and emotional responses we experience when feeling anxious. This has allowed many of them to face their ultimate fears and hold the animal they are afraid of (usually the cockroach, tarantula or snakes)!”

Click here for more on studying Psychology at Birkenhead Sixth Form College.