The Boston Globe notes an interesting finding:
One of the classic stereotypes about women is that they’re acutely terrified by snakes and spiders. Indeed, it has been found that women are four times more likely to suffer from these phobias, but there is ostensibly no gender difference for phobias related to modern-day life (e.g., injections, flying). What is the origin of this disparity? To find out, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University conducted experiments on 11-month-old infants. Although infants of both genders looked at isolated pictures of snakes, spiders, flowers, or mushrooms for about the same amount of time, girls looked at a picture of a snake or spider much longer than boys after first seeing a picture of a snake or spider paired with a picture of a fearful face. Because there was no such effect with pictures of flowers or mushrooms, the authors suggest that females are born with a “perceptual template that specifies the structure of snakes as well as spiders,” and speculate that it is a disposition that may have evolved to safeguard offspring.