Natural selection affects emotional and behavioural patterns, such as anti-predator adaptations, that enhance human survival. Fear is a basic emotion that activates behavioural responses upon encountering a predator, being consistently higher in females than in males. In this study, we investigated associations between fear of a large carnivore predator and perceived physical condition in a sample of Slovakian participants (n = 943). When testing evolutionary hypotheses explaining gender differences in fear of predators, we found partial support for the “physical condition” hypothesis, because females either reported lower perceived body condition than males and their perceived body condition showed significant correlation with fear of brown bear, Ursus arctos. The negative association between fear and perceived body condition was stronger in males suggesting that fear evolved as a response to higher predation pressures on males in our evolutionary past, indirectly supporting the “predation pressure” hypothesis. Males and participants with higher fear of bears wanted to exterminate bears by shooting more than others, suggesting that future management strategies should be oriented on elimination of fear of predators, as primary predictor of extremely negative attitudes toward bears.
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Vol. 47 • No. 6