Why do clowns scare people? It’s not just the makeup

Do clowns send a shiver down your spine? If these entertainers frighten you, then you should know that this is not a rare phenomenon.

The fear or phobia of clowns is called coulrophobia. This affects both children and adults who may have “extreme, irrational reactions” when they see a clown – personally or virtually.

People who already have an anxiety disorder or other phobias are more prone to develop coulrophobia.

Those with a fear of clowns try to avoid them. Other signs of coulrophobia include shaking, fast breathing and heart rate, a feeling of terror, heavy sweating and nausea.

This “extreme” fear of clowns is marginally more than other phobias such as animals, blood/injection/injuries, heights, and so on.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Wales found that 53.5 per cent of those surveyed reported some level of coulrophobia.

While the reason for this is unclear, the researchers say that clowns strike more fear in women than men.

Coulrophobia decreases with age. Also, the degree of coulrophobia was highest in Asian participants and least in Europeans, reported Dailymail.

This fear is divided into several points such as “not-quite-human” makeup; facial features exhibiting a “direct sense of threat”; the colourful makeup concealing their expression; makeup reminding of “death, infection or blood injury”

Evoking “disgust”; unpredictable behaviour; the fear of clowns learnt from family; negative portrayals of clowns in popular culture; and a personal scary experience are a few reasons behind the fear.

The strongest reason for the fear, as per the researchers, was concealed emotional signals due to the makeup.