Widespread, the scared of clowns, or coulrophobia, would not result only from the horror films having exploited the “vein”. Present in both adults and children, and in different cultures, the fear of clowns is almost universal, note researchers publishing a new study on the subject.
Curious to know more about coulrophobia, British scientists recruited 987 people aged 18 to 77 from 64 different countries, of whom 528 reported being afraid of clowns. 5% of them even declared having extremely scared », a percentage slightly higher than that observed for other phobias such as fear of animals (3.8% of phobics are very afraid of them), fear of blood or injuries (2.3%) or fear vacuum (2.8%) and confined spaces (2.2%). Women are also more afraid of clowns than men, and this phobia decreases with ageaccording to the results of the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Source 1).
The make-up of the clowns in question
A new questionnaire, specifically designed for the study, was submitted to the 528 participants who reported suffering from coulrophobia. This questionnaire highlighted eight possible explanations to this phobia, namely:
- a strange or unsettling feeling due to the clowns’ makeup, which makes them look not quite human, a similar response sometimes being observed with dolls or mannequins;
- the exaggerated facial features of clowns, conveying a direct sense of threat;
- clown makeup masking emotional signals and creating uncertainty;
- the color of clown makeup reminding us of death, blood, and evoking disgust or avoidance;
- the unpredictable behavior of the clowns which can be uncomfortable;
- the fear of clowns learned and transmitted by family members;
- negative representations of clowns in popular culture (particularly horror films);
- having had a scary experience with a clown.
Curiously, the last proposal is the one that turned out to be the least relevant. It alone would not be enough to explain why a person is afraid of clowns. In contrast, negative portrayals of clowns in popular culture were a much larger contributing factor. However, some people are afraid of clowns even when they are not there to scare, but rather to amuse or make people laugh, the researchers point out in a press release (Source 2). Rather, the most important factor identified here would be the fact that clownish makeup conceals emotions of its carrier. “ Not being able to sense what a clown is thinking or what they might do next makes some of us nervous when around them. write the scientists.
However, it seems that it is not the same when someone dresses up as something completely different, and wears for example an animal make-up. Other criteria therefore remain to be explored, say the researchers in conclusion.
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