Nature relatedness: a protective factor for snake and spider fears and phobias.
Worldwide, urbanization has created completely novel environments, which bring many conveniences but carry several drawbacks too. One of the most important disadvantages is that most people living in cities lose contact with nature including interaction with animals. Current evidence shows that countries with lower levels of urbanization also have a lower prevalence of animal fears and phobias. Here, we sought to test whether nature relatedness (NR) and residence size serve as protective factors to the most common animal fears and phobias (i.e. that of snakes and spiders). We used the NR Scale to measure the individuals' subjective connection with nature. Participants (N = 1,071, aged 18-65 years) were also asked to complete the Snake and Spider Questionnaire (SNAQ and SPQ, respectively) and to rate pictures of snakes and spiders according to valence, arousal and dominance. To explore complex relationships between various explanatory and response variables, we employed a generalized linear model, redundancy analysis and structural equation modelling. Results show that snake and spider fear is strongly associated with the NR total score. Participants scoring higher on the SNAQ and SPQ also evaluate snake and spider images more negatively, are more aroused by the stimuli but feel less dominant over them. Moreover, subjects with higher snake or spider fear scored lower on the NR scale, especially its two subscales, Experience and Perspective. Results demonstrate that the more people feel connected to nature, the less they are affected by animal fears or phobias. We believe this study presents an important implication for both conservationist endeavours and therapeutic interventions.