University Researchers Examine Why People Are Scared Of Clowns

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Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, is a shared fear among many people around the world, including both adults and children. However, despite being widely recognized, the exact reason behind this fear has yet to be fully understood due to a lack of research. To shed light on this mysterious phobia, researchers from the University of South Wales embarked on a quest to delve deeper into the psychology of coulrophobia. 

Image: Pixabay / Daniel

By conducting a psychometric questionnaire, which was completed by almost a thousand individuals from various countries, the team found that more than half of the respondents (53.5%) reported a certain level of fear towards clowns. Interestingly, 5% of these individuals identified as “extremely afraid,” which is a slightly higher percentage than that of other common phobias such as animals and blood/injection/injuries. 

Moreover, the findings suggested that women tend to have a higher fear of clowns compared to men, while coulrophobia generally declines with age. Through these unique insights, the study offers a captivating glimpse into the mysterious world of coulrophobia.

Exploring the Roots of Clown Fear

Researchers delved into understanding the roots behind people’s fear of clowns, and asked follow-up questions to the 53.5% of participants who admitted experiencing some level of coulrophobia. We presented them with eight possible reasons for this anxiety:

1. An unsettling sensation caused by clowns appearing not-quite-human due to their makeup, similar to reactions towards dolls or mannequins.

2. The exaggerated facial features of clowns may signal a threat.

3. Makeup conceals a clown’s emotions, creating ambiguity.

4. Associations between clown makeup and death, infection, or blood injury may evoke disgust or avoidance.

5. Clowns’ unpredictable actions cause discomfort.

6. Fear of clowns may have been acquired from family members.

7. Negative representations of clowns in pop culture.

8. A frightening personal encounter with a clown.

Sad Clown
Image: Pixabay / Isabella Quintana

Surprisingly, research showed that having a terrifying experience with a clown ranked lowest in agreement. This implies that personal encounters alone don’t entirely explain people’s fear of clowns.

However, negative portrayals in popular culture contributed significantly to coulrophobia. Prominent examples like Pennywise from Stephen King’s 1986 novel “It” illustrate this effect – especially considering Bill Skarsgård’s chilling portrayal in the 2017 and 2019 film adaptations.

Even Ronald McDonald, intended as a friendly mascot, sparks fear in some individuals. This indicates that there may be an underlying element about clowns’ appearance that makes people uneasy.

According to our findings, concealed emotional signals proved to be the most influential factor in triggering clown-related fears. A clown’s makeup hides their true expressions, making it difficult for us to gauge their intentions or predict their next move – generating unease when we’re near them.

This study has shed light on reasons behind coulrophobia but leaves more questions unanswered. Do painted faces resembling animals have a similar effect? Or is it specific to clown makeup? We are now focusing on this mystery in our ongoing research.

Source: unexplained mysteries and the conversation

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