The Sound of Rattlesnakes in the Classroom

At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, rattlesnakes under the care of James Van Dyke are brought into the classroom of Jessica Nolan.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Today's sound clip comes from two people who've been studying human interaction with rattlesnakes. They're from two very different departments at the University of Arkansas.

Professor JESSICA NOLAN (General psychology, University of Arkansas Graduate Student Department): My name is Jessica Nolan and I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I am an instructor for general psychology.

Mr. JAMES VAN DYKE (Graduate student, University of Arkansas): My name is James Van Dyke or Van and I'm a graduate student at University of Arkansas working in biological sciences.

Prof. NOLAN: I teach students about phobias.

Mr. VAN DYKE: And I study snake biology. And one of the species that I work with is the timber rattlesnake, which is a native eastern rattlesnake to most of eastern United States.

Prof. NOLAN: A phobia is basically an irrational fear. One of the easiest psychological disorders to overcome is a phobia, and you can do that through a process called exposure therapy, which is where you expose the person to the thing that they fear. So as we do make that therapeutic procedure more vivid for my students, I contacted Van and asked if he'd be willing to bring a snake to my class.

(Soundbite of rattlesnake rattling)

Mr. VAN DYKE: It's a very shocking experience for some people.

Prof. NOLAN: That kind of also help students to see the difference between a fear and a phobia. Most of them will say that they're afraid of snakes, but the fact that they're willing to - willing and able to be in the classroom with a snake shows that they don't have a phobia.

(Soundbite of rattlesnake rattling)

Mr. VAN DYKE: Nine times out of ten in the field where we work, we don't even hear them rattle. They just sit there quietly but whenever you disturb them, if you kick them or try to pick them up or anything like that, then they will start rattling.

Prof. NOLAN: To me, it actually just sounded like water in pipes, or kind of rain falling through a rain gutter or something. But I thought it was a really interesting and also slightly anxiety-provoking sound.

(Soundbite of rattlesnake rattling)

Prof. NOLAN: Van is helping me to realize that they are not out to get me.

(Soundbite of rattlesnake rattling)

BLOCK: A sound clip from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Rattlesnakes, under the care of James Van Dyke, brought into the classroom of Jessica Nolan.

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