Cited in Yahoo Health – Corruption, Terrorism, … and Reptiles? Survey Details Americans’ Biggest Fears

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 7.48.27 PMChapman University just released a survey of 1500 people’s biggest fears. Among them are usual suspects of every day things that scare us – bioterrorism, natural disasters, running out of money, being rejected etc. But also included were any number of so-called “personal fears” including a fear of robots, ghosts, zombies, and clowns. Yep, you read that right, zombies and clowns. Yahoo Health was curious about why so many people could be afraid of things including reptiles (33%) and insects (26%), and other harmless things as ghosts, zombies, and clowns (almost 10%).

I was pleased to weigh in on the terrific article you can read by clicking here.

Licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, PsyD, tells Yahoo Health that she’s not shocked by the findings. Fears of insects and reptiles “are thought to be survival-related and likely relics of our successful ancestor’s vigilance and survival of such predators,” she explains. “Some current genetic research suggests that fears and phobias are not just learned at impressionable ages, but can indeed be inherited.”

Clark also points out that we don’t like and are even afraid of things that are unpredictable, confusing, and beyond our control like reptiles, insects, and robots.

But…zombies and ghosts? She says it might signal our ongoing discomfort with the experience of death and the uncertainty that surrounds it: “What we don’t understand will always cause dissonance that, in turn, can scare us.”

Clark says these fears may be traced back to early experiences for some people that were scary but are difficult to remember because they happened at an early age. While adults can recognize that clowns and zombies are a person in character, children can be terrified in their presence and can’t understand that it’s a person in costume or character on TV.

“Even if these initial early fear reactions aren’t remembered, they are sill stored in our memory and can fuel fears that can stick for life,” Clark says.

Posted in ,

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD