If the image of a clown causes you to turn your head, you may have coulrophobia.
Researchers at the University of Wales created ‘The Fear of Clowns Questionnaire’ to explore the origins of this phobia – and the results may not be what most people expect.
Participants are asked to tank 18 items, including “if I encountered a clown, I would leave the room,” from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”
The research also led to the origin of people’s fear, with clowns’ makeup giving them a not-quite-human appearance, reported as the most popular explanation.
However, the team also found that coulrophobia decreases with age – giving hope to those who still shudder at the thought of a clown.
Scientists have created a questionnaire to determine the extent to which people are afraid of clowns. Participants rank each item from one to seven – one being ‘totally disagree’ and seven being ‘totally agree’
Previous studies have found that people are not born with a fear of clowns, but that the phobia develops as they get older.
Coulrophobia begins at a young age when a child watches a thriller featuring a killer clown – Killer Clowns from Outer Space, released in 1998, and Stephen King’s It from 1986 are just two examples.
However, there are real “killer clowns” such as serial killer John Wayne Gacy who performed as Pogo the Clown at charity events and children’s parties in the 1970s and murdered 33 boys and young men.
“However, some people are afraid of Ronald McDonald, the fast food chain’s mascot, and he’s not meant to scare you,” the researchers wrote. The conversation.
“This suggests that there may be something more fundamental about clown appearances that upsets people.”
The team surveyed 987 people between the ages of 18 and 77.
These participants were in Africa, Europe, Australia, the Americas and the UK.
The items included: I would do anything to avoid a clown; If I encountered a clown, it would take me a long time to get it out of my mind; If I saw a clown I would be afraid of it; and if I saw a clown I would be very panicked.
The research also led to the origin of people’s fear, with clowns’ makeup giving them a not-quite-human look, reported as the most popular explanation, which can be seen on Stephen King’s IT’s face
And the answers were obtained using a 7-point scale ranging from 1-strongly disagree to 7-strongly agree. And the higher the points, the more intense the phobia.
The results showed that participants from Asia reported the highest levels of courophobia, while those in Europe had the lowest, according to the study published in the International Journal of Mental Health.
However, 54 percent of all respondents were somewhat afraid of clowns.
This researcher’s next step was to identify the origin of this fear.
While the non-human gaze was number one, a clown’s “exaggerated facial features that exude an immediate sense of threat” came in second.
The next reason was the makeup, as it hides the person’s emotions and makes others feel insecure.
There are real ‘killer clowns’ like the serial killer John Wayne Gacy (pictured) who performed as Pogo the Clown at charity events and children’s parties in the 1970s and murdered 33 boys and young men
Some respondents reported that the makeup reminded them of “death, infection or blood injury and evoked disgust or avoidance,” the researchers wrote.
The next origin was the unpredictable behavior of clowns that make us uncomfortable, followed by the fear learned from relatives.
And then the “negative depictions of clowns in popular culture” fueled the fear.
The final reason, which may come as a surprise, was “a frightening experience with a clown.”
“Intriguingly, we found that the last explanation, that we had had a scary personal experience with a clown, had the least agreement,” the researchers wrote in The Conversation.
“This indicates that life experience alone is not a sufficient explanation for why people fear them.”