- Researchers from the University of South Wales surveyed 528 people who were afraid of clowns.
- They found that the majority were not afraid because of a bad experience with a clown.
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Scientists have revealed why five percent of people in the US are afraid of clowns, and it doesn’t stem from frightening childhood experiences involving clowns, as you might expect.
Rather, the fears are rooted in a handful of typical characteristics of clowns, according to a new survey by American psychologists.
Researchers at the University of South Wales surveyed more than 500 people who have a fear of clowns (known as coulrophobia) and found a number of surprising reasons for their phobia.
The most cited were not being able to tell what the clown really feels – due to the painted smile – and the terrifying representation in some films, such as the character of Pennywise in the 2017 version of Stephen King’s ‘It’.
Elements of a clown’s appearance, including brightly colored locks of hair and big red nose, can also be disturbing.
Those who fear clowns say part of the fear lies in fictional representations, such as the disturbing version of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise character in Stephen King’s ‘It’.
Philip Tyson, professor of psychology at the University of South Wales, has been teaching phobias for 15 years. Every year, a steady minority of students would admit that they are terrified of clowns.
According to a recent survey, about five percent of the population is afraid or very afraid of clowns.
Professor Tyson and his colleagues were so intrigued by fear that they developed a survey to determine where their phobia originated from.
One of the “most surprising findings,” Tyson said Washington Postwas that having a “scary personal experience with a clown was not the main contributor to fear.”
The research was published in the journal. Frontiers in psychologyAnd although it is not based on a representative sample of the population, the study offers insight into why people fear clowns.
One intriguing reason participants mentioned was that you never really know what a clown is thinking.
Their painted smile or frown makes it difficult to know what’s really going on in their minds.
“There’s something about not being able to read facial expressions,” Mr. Tyson explained. “And the fact that there could be something hidden and dangerous, there could be harmful intent behind the makeup.”
Phobias often arise from characters or objects that look like humans but not exactly, such as aliens and robots.
Clowns are also known to behave unpredictably, for example honking or throwing water from a flower.
Tyson said this introduces an element of unpredictability, which is a common cause of fear and is often cited in other phobias, such as the fear of spiders.