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 Infested Mind 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 Infested Mind 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.
PROLOGUE. Entomophobia from the inside: Swallowed by a swarm
CHAPTER 1. The Nature of Fear-and the Fear of Nature
CHAPTER 2. Entomophobia: A product of our genes?
CHAPTER 3. Entomophobia: Practice Makes Perfect?
CHAPTER 4. Disgust: Horror's Other Half
CHAPTER 5. The Terrible Trio: Imagining Insects into Our Lives
CHAPTER 6. Treating the Horrified: Finally, some good news
CHAPTER 7. Entomophilia: Insects as sources of wonder
EPILOGUE. Tales of Terror: Bed bugs in New York City
Jeffrey Lockwood is a Professor of Natural Sciences & Humanities at the University of Wyoming and author of Six-Legged Soldiers
"This provocative book is valuable for psychologists, entomologists, or general readers who would like to understand how irrational fears of insects and their relatives distort people's view of reality. Highly recommended."
– E. R. Lee Jr., Choice
"If someone is interested in a solid and interdisciplinary background about the mechanisms and manifestations of entomophobia as well as techniques to overcome this fear, this book provides a good foundation."
– Rick Vetter, American Entomologist