Jordan peterson, a culturally popular psychologist, has made the following biological claim:

Human beings and their closest biological relatives, chimpanzees, are innately afraid of and attracted to reptiles.
Jordan Peterson - The Significance Of Snakes On Human Evolution - YouTube

The claim is plausible and believable. I know many people fearful enough of snakes and reptiles that they won't even touch one. I also know nearly every little boy would put one in his pocket. What gives concern before I'd take this without challenge is that Peterson has a long line of theory that nearly hinges entirely on this point.

I'm sure he's not the first to suggest this, so I suspect there's proper studies on human/chimp fear of reptiles. What does the evidence say?

He makes many other evolutionary and behavior claims derived from this base claim. They are equally questionable, but testing all in a single question is probably too much.

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    I don't really understand the claim "innately afraid of and attracted to ". What would that look like? How do you test "both afraid of and attracted to", and does he mean each individual is both or one of the two? It seems like he's claiming two opposite things in the same claim. It's not clear to me what he means by that.
    – JMac
    Sep 24 '18 at 12:06
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    @Derek_6424246 that's an odd definition of "attraction" in my mind. If I were only afraid of something I would still probably pay a lot of attention to it especially if there was an enclosure preventing me from getting further away. Sep 25 '18 at 15:29
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    @Derek_6424246 I don't think "attraction" is limited to romance, but I don't think that any reasonable definition of attraction applies to everything that you "lock your attention on". Sep 25 '18 at 15:50
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    Makes me think of the cat cucumber thing too. If felines have an innate fear (it's not proven they do) then primates could too. Oct 31 '18 at 12:41

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