Why we found clowns to be creepy?

October 6, 2019  12:19

Hollywood has long exploited our deep ambivalence towards clowns, and the movie premieres of this fall only confirm this, CNN reported.

Batman's crazy enemy Joker, played by Joaquin Phoenix, are on air from October 4. In September, Stephen King's evil clown, Pennywise (It) appeared for the second time in two years.

Why clowns have become the embodiment of pure evil?

A 2008 study in England found that very few children really love clowns. It also concluded that the usual practice of decorating children's wards in hospitals with clown images could create the opposite effect. No wonder so many people hate Ronald MacDonald.

According to psychology professor Frank T. McAndrew, clown-like characters have been around for thousands of years. Historically, jesters and clowns have been a means of satire and banter of influential people. They provided a safety valve for the release of steam, and they were given a unique freedom of expression.

The image of a circus clown with a painted face and a wig appeared in the 19th century and has changed only slightly over the past 150 years. The evil clown trail is not new either. In 2016, writer Benjamin Radford published the book ‘Bad Clowns’, which traces the historical evolution of clowns into unpredictable, threatening creatures.

Psychology can help explain why clowns often give us goosebumps.

The study involved 1341 volunteers aged 18 to 77 years. In the first section of the survey, our participants assessed the likelihood of a hypothetical “creepy person” exhibiting 44 different behaviors, such as unusual eye contact or physical characteristics, such as visible tattoos.

In the second section of the survey, participants rated the fear of 21 different professions, and in the third section they simply listed two hobbies that, in their opinion, were creepy. In the final section, participants noted how much they agree with 15 statements about the nature of creepy people.

The results showed that the people we perceive creepy are much more likely to be men than women, that unpredictability is an important component of creepiness, and that unusual patterns of eye contact and other non-verbal forms of behavior are of great concern.

Unusual or strange physical characteristics, such as bulging eyes, a peculiar smile or excessively long fingers, do not in themselves make us perceive someone as creepy. But the presence of strange physical traits can strengthen any other terrible trends that a person can demonstrate, such as constantly conducting conversations on specific sexual topics.

When we asked people to evaluate the terribleness of different professions, the first on the list were clowns.

The results are consistent with my theory that “goosebumps” are a response to the ambiguity of the threat.

For example, it would be rude and strange to run away in the middle of a conversation with someone who sends a terrible vibration, but is actually harmless; at the same time, it can be dangerous to ignore intuition and interact with this person if he is actually a threat. Ambivalence introduces into a stupor.

In light of the results of our research, it is not surprising that we find clowns creepy.

Rami Nader, a Canadian psychologist who studies coulophobia, an irrational fear of clowns, believes that this phobia is fueled by the fact that clowns are made up, hiding their true personality and feelings.

“This is fully consistent with my hypothesis that clowns are ambiguous. They seem to be happy, but is it really so? People interacting with a clown never know if they will get a pie in the face or be the victim of some other humiliating joke. Unusual physical characteristics of a clown - a wig, a red nose, makeup, strange clothes - only increase the uncertainty in the actions of the clown, ”writes McAndrew.


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