September 21, 2023

In case you’ve ever discovered your self feeling uneasy round clowns, you’re not alone.

A new study published on February 2 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology got down to examine the origins of “coulrophobia” (because the worry of clowns is formally identified), and the outcomes are intriguing.

How prevalent is the worry of clowns?

Coulrophobia has been a broadly documented phenomenon amongst each adults and kids in varied cultures for not less than a century, however its precise prevalence is inconsistent throughout research.

A 2022 survey of adults from 64 countries discovered that 54% of respondents reported having a point of coulrophobia.

Within the current examine, about 47% of respondents mentioned they have been “by no means” afraid of clowns, 34% mentioned “barely afraid” about 14% mentioned “reasonably afraid” and 5% answered that have been have been “extraordinarily afraid” of clowns.

Regardless of the inconsistent figures, there may be clear proof that coulrophobia impacts a good portion of the inhabitants, and the origins and causes of this worry stay unanswered.

Measuring coulrophobia

The researchers, from the College of South Wales within the UK, constructed a software to measure the extent to which a spread of hypothetical causes contributes to the worry of clowns.

They administered their 18-question “Origins of Concern of Clowns Questionnaire” (OFCQ) to 987 adults within the UK, who had a median age of 28.

The researchers discovered broad assist for all the eight components that they’d suspected may play some function. These embrace:

  1. Uncanny valley impact as a consequence of clowns’ “proto” human picture
  2. Exaggerated facial options that convey a way of risk
  3. Make-up that hides emotional alerts and creates uncertainty
  4. (Purple) make-up that evokes a disgust response as a consequence of affiliation with loss of life, an infection, or harm
  5. Unpredictable habits
  6. Concern discovered from relations
  7. Concern discovered from adverse portrayals of clowns in media
  8. Concern originating from a daunting expertise with a clown.

Surprisingly, the bottom stage was discovered for questions regarding having had a daunting expertise within the presence of a clown.

This means that straightforward, direct conditioning is an inadequate rationalization for clown worry within the majority of people.

Topping the listing: media influences and unpredictability

Although the survey supported a multifaceted rationalization, the strongest components have been of media influences and unpredictability/uncertainty about clowns’ (dangerous) intent.

This means a rational foundation for the worry of clowns. For example, if one has purpose to suspect hurt within the presence of a selected stimulus, resembling erratic or threatening habits, then an aversion to that stimulus is rational.

Likewise, there was quite a lot of assist for information-induced worry via the media and common tradition. Fright-induced media content material can have sustained results into maturity, notably from publicity as a baby or teenager. The current examine, for instance, makes frequent references to Pennywise, the scary clown from Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel It.

Ladies discover clowns even scarier

The examine discovered that extra females reported a worry of clowns in comparison with males, and that their worry was additionally extra extreme. That is much like earlier analysis on different particular phobias like worry of snakes and spiders.

The rationale for this distinction will not be clear, however some theories recommend that girls could also be extra delicate to potential threats, have stronger reactions to facial expressions, and usually tend to specific their worry.

It will get higher with age

The examine additionally discovered that worry of clowns decreases as folks become older, which matches up with different fears associated to particular issues (once more, like spiders or snakes).

A intestine response

The examine additionally discovered that there’s a extra instinctive, intestine response concerned in clown worry, much like the response skilled within the presence of fear-relevant stimuli like snakes or spiders.

This means that there are stimulus properties of clowns that engender such a response, despite the fact that the precise properties are nonetheless unknown.

Among the clowns which can be typically described as scary do share some widespread bodily attributes, resembling pallor-like make-up with pink accents.

These widespread bodily attributes might contribute to the uncanny valley impact, whereby clowns are not-quite-human in look. And the actual mixture of pallor and redness in a clown’s make-up could also be paying homage to illness.

Future analysis

The researchers acknowledge that that is simply the tip of the iceberg on the subject of understanding coulrophobia, and that extra analysis is required to uncover the complete image.

Nonetheless, this examine supplies an interesting glimpse into the origins of this worry and the way it impacts totally different folks in numerous methods.

Whether or not it’s via hidden emotional alerts, adverse media portrayals, or simply an instinctual response, it’s clear that coulrophobia is a posh and intriguing matter that deserves additional exploration.

Examine:Fear of clowns: An investigation into the aetiology of coulrophobia
Authors: Philip John Tyson, Shakiela Okay. Davies, Sophie Scorey, and William James Greville
Printed in: Frontiers in Psychology
Publication date: February 2, 2023

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