Girls who say "yuk" to bugs

Chris Boake boake at
Sun Oct 15 12:01:53 EST 1995

This year I have given several workshops to girls, from preschool to 
Grade 8, in which I discuss the topic of animal signals.  These are
primarily show-and-tell events, to which I bring a stuffed skunk and
whatever else I can find (a dead wasp nest, live hissing cockroaches).
The little girls are eager to touch everything, but the older girls
curl up their noses and shrink away from the skunk, the caterpillars,
and many other specimens. (The mammals are properly prepared stuffed
skins from our teaching collection; most of them were roadkills that
died 30 to 50 years ago.)  I can overcome some of the "yuk" response
by gentle teasing ("It won't bite" and the like).
  I have heard that some if not all of the "yuk" response is cultural
(and seeing how the mothers behave, this makes sense).  One of my 
friends said that at least one study of it had been conducted, but
didn't know the citation.  Can anyone steer me to relevant references?
I'd like to learn more about it in order to develop strategies to 
combat it.
Chris Boake
Dept. Ecol. & Evol. Biol.
Univ. of Tenn., Knoxville  

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