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A recent Knoxville News Sentinel story explored mankind’s complex relationship with snakes particularly since the reptiles remain a part of so many cultures’ fears, focus of worship, captive exhibits and symbolic or religious meanings.

UT’s Gordon Burghardt expounded on the psychology of snakes in this story. He noted that the fear of snakes can easily turn into what some see as cruel behaviors and socially legitimized events of torture. He added that in many zoos, the reptile house is often one of the most visited exhibits. He believes that this curiosity can be used by zoos “to provide a more stimulating and interesting environment for family learning” about snakes and to “counteract the fear of snakes by demystifying them.”

In a second News Sentinel article, Burghardt discussed how the fear of snakes may date back to evolution in Africa. He also touched on common snake myths.

Burghardt is an Alumni Distinguished Service Professor, holds appointments in the Departments of Psychology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.