Saturday, 25 February 2012

Saturday Photo: Scary Plants and the Reptilian Brain

Happy little girl that she is, Jeanne has faced the world with a smile since she was tiny. She has not been phased or frightened by much...until she started to walk with facility.

Then within a couple of weeks she manifested behavior which can only be rooted in some reflex hidden deep inside. First, she encountered a spider for the first time on the floor of the kitchen and absolutely freaked, says her Papa who witnessed it. She had never seen any adult or child react to a creepy crawly with fear, but the sight somehow immediately prompted avoidance behavior of a rather extreme nature.

Then at our house, she, who had been happily cruising the living room for months on her bum, got extremely upset at an amarylis plant that was growing a bit strangely because of its relation to the ambient light. I heard her squealing and went into the living room to find her backing away fearfully from the rather snakelike flower stock. We reassured her, but until the flower bloomed and I cut it off to put in water, she avoid getting too close to it.

This kind of almost automatic reaction would have great survival value,it seems to me. Kids who are truly mobile need to learn what to avoid, and if they're scared initially by things that might bear menace, so much the better from an evolutionary point of view.

But all is not automatic. Last weekend, despite being told not to stand up in an arm chair, she persisted in doing so, and fell foward, hitting her head on the coffee table. She wasn't hurt badly, but when she came back a few days ago, she carefully pointed to the table edge and distinctly said "bobo," the kids' French for "that hurts." What's more, to my knowledge she hasn't tried to stand on the arm chair since. Burnt child shuns fire, perhaps?

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