Are you afraid of clowns? You aren’t alone. Coulrophobia, or the worry of clowns, is a extensively acknowledged phenomenon. Studies point out this worry is current amongst each adults and youngsters in many alternative cultures. Yet it’s not properly understood as a result of an absence of targeted analysis.
While quite a few doable explanations of the phobia had been put ahead in educational literature, no research had particularly investigated its origins. So we got down to uncover the explanations persons are frightened by clowns, and to grasp the psychology behind this. We additionally wished to discover how frequent the worry of clowns is in adults and to take a look at the severity of the worry in those that reported it.
To do that, we devised a psychometric questionnaire to evaluate the prevalence and severity of coulrophobia. The Fear of Clowns Questionnaire was accomplished by a global pattern of 987 folks aged between 18 and 77.
More than half the respondents (53.5%) mentioned they have been afraid of clowns at the very least to a point, with 5% saying they have been “extraordinarily afraid” of them. Interestingly, this proportion reporting an excessive worry of clowns is barely increased than these reported for a lot of different phobias, reminiscent of animals (3.8%), blood/injection/accidents (3.0%), heights (2.8%), nonetheless water or climate occasions (2.3%), closed areas (2.2%), and flying (1.3%).
We additionally discovered that ladies are extra afraid of clowns than males. The motive for this distinction just isn’t clear, nevertheless it echoes analysis findings on different phobias such because the worry of snakes and spiders. We additionally found coulrophobia decreases with age, which once more matches up with analysis into different fears.
Origins of this worry
Our subsequent step was to discover the origins of individuals’s worry of clowns. A follow-up questionnaire was given to the 53.5% who had reported at the very least a point of clown worry. This new set of questions associated to eight believable explanations for the origins of this worry, as follows:
An eerie or unsettling feeling as a result of clowns’ make-up making them look not-quite-human. An analogous response is usually seen with dolls or mannequins.
Clowns’ exaggerated facial options convey a direct sense of risk.
Clown make-up hides emotional indicators and creates uncertainty.
The color of clown make-up reminds us of dying, an infection or blood damage, and evokes disgust or avoidance.
Clowns’ unpredictable behaviour makes us uncomfortable.
Fear of clowns has been realized from relations.
Negative portrayals of clowns in common tradition.
A daunting expertise with a clown.
Intriguingly, we discovered the ultimate clarification, of getting had a scary private expertise with a clown, had the bottom degree of settlement. This signifies that life expertise alone just isn’t a adequate clarification for why persons are afraid of them.
In distinction, unfavourable portrayals of clowns in common tradition was a a lot stronger contributing issue in direction of coulrophobia. This is comprehensible since among the most outstanding clowns in books and movies are designed to be scary – reminiscent of Pennywise, the creepy clown from Stephen King’s 1986 novel It. (This character most lately featured in two movies in 2017 and 2019, with Bill Skarsgård within the starring function.)
However, some persons are afraid of Ronald McDonald, the quick meals chain mascot, and he’s not meant to scare you. This suggests there is likely to be one thing extra elementary about the way in which clowns look that unsettles folks.
In truth the strongest issue we recognized was hidden emotional indicators, suggesting that for many individuals, a worry of clowns stems from not having the ability to see their facial expressions as a result of their make-up. We can’t see their “true” faces and subsequently can’t perceive their emotional intent. So, for instance, we don’t know whether or not they have a frown or a furrowed forehead, which might point out anger. Not having the ability to detect what a clown is considering or what they could do subsequent makes a few of us on edge after we are round them.
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This analysis has supplied some new insights into why persons are afraid of clowns – but extra questions stay. For occasion, if make-up which masks feelings causes worry, do individuals who have their faces painted as animals additionally create the identical type of impact? Or is there one thing extra specific concerning the make-up of clowns that drives this worry? This is now the main focus of our continued analysis.
The authors don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.
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