The new work of scientists reveals the true causes of the fear of clowns, and this is not what we might expect.
Pennywise, Twisty, Wrinkle, Bozo, and Roonald McDonald all have something in common. For example, that in some people they cause horror, a desire to close their eyes and run in the opposite direction, writes New Atlas.
Despite the fact that the fear of clowns, or clownophobia, is quite common and affects people of different ages and cultures, it still remains poorly understood. Especially when it comes to the reasons that cause this phobia, because the object of fear can be not only a nasty and scary clown from films and stories, but also a seemingly harmless clown in a circus.
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In a new study, scientists from the School of Psychology and Therapeutic Research at the University of South Wales (UK) studied the prevalence of clownphobia to understand where it originates and what exactly clowns scare people.
Note that clown phobia is not classified as a separate condition in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, it falls well into the category of specific phobias in the class of anxiety disorders. In earlier studies, scientists have already tried to understand the causes of this phobia, however, none of them have focused specifically on the origin of this particular fear of clowns.
During the study, the researchers developed a questionnaire that helped them study individual reactions to clowns, as well as to find links between this phobia and demographic factors, including age and gender. Recipients were asked to answer a series of questions related to the appearance of clowns, their behavior, the depiction of clowns in films and literature, as well as negative experiences with clowns, if any.
As a result, scientists selected a sample of 987 participants aged 18 to 72, of which 80% were women and 20% were men. The survey showed that slightly more than half (53.5%) of the recipients indicated that they were afraid of clowns to some extent, while only 5% said that they were “very afraid” of them.
In addition, the researchers found that the percentage reporting extreme fear of clowns was slightly higher than for other phobias. For comparison:
3.8% animals; 3% blood, injections, injuries; 2.8% height; 1.3% flights.
The survey also shows that women are much more likely to be afraid of clowns than men. By the way, scientists say that this statistic is true not only for clownophobia, but also for a number of other fears. The results of the study also indicate that the fear of clowns decreases with age.
However, the researchers also found some interesting facts. For example, the presence of negative experiences associated with clowns was found to be the lowest among the factors contributing to the development of a phobia. At the same time, the negative portrayal of clowns in literature and films was a much stronger factor. However, the most powerful factor that influenced the development of a phobia turned out to be hidden emotional signals. In simple terms, a clown’s makeup tends to hide his true facial expression – this makes it difficult to understand his intentions, which subsequently causes fear of clowns.
The scientists note that the results of their study shed light on the cause of one of the most common phobias of fear of clowns, and also raises many other questions that scientists plan to study in further research.
Previously, Focus wrote that scientists have found out why some people are afraid of blood, while others love bloody films.
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