The Funniest Residents of Uncanny Valley, Creepy Clowns – and Why They Scare Us
Creepy clowns are everywhere, but why do we find clowns so creepy in the first place? New research into creepiness confirms what we all thought: clowns are objectively creepy.
From California to the Carolinas and now even in the United Kingdom, creepy clowns are out to get us. The terrifying fad has lead to college police departments asking people not to dress as clowns for Halloween this year. The coulrophobics of the United States are in a collective state of dread.
The idea of clowns being frightening is ingrained in our culture. From Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise in the film adaption of “It” to the real life hobby of John Wayne Gacy dressing up as “Pogo the Clown”. Even in the recent children’s film "Inside Out" there was a prominent depiction of a clown being frightening as opposed to funny.
But, why clowns? Why do we find these characters that are supposed to make us laugh so creepy?
As it turns out, children don’t even like clowns. A 2008 study in England showed that nearly all children surveyed found clown designs in hospital wards discomforting. Some going so far as to find them “frightening and unknowable”, and that older children were particularly averse to them.
For adults, it seems that clowns have nearly every element of creepiness checked off. A recent study of creepiness asked subjects to rate the creepiness level of 44 different features. The results showed persons that are seen as creepy are more likely to be male, have strange physical features or nonverbal actions, tend to have odd patterns of eye contact, and demonstrate unpredictable behavior.
This series of features could practically be a list of job requirements for persons looking to become a clown. Oh, and the subjects chose “clown” as the creepiest listed profession. The runners up included taxidermists and funeral directors.
Psychologically, scary clowns often strike at one of our primal fears, they are uncanny. Uncanniness is a notion in psychology that goes back to before Freud. The idea being that the closer something is to being familiar, without quite making it, the more uncomfortable we are with it. The previously mentioned studies show that clowns, with their makeup, odd behavior, and comic features are residents of uncanny valley. We respond to the uncanny intuitively, with fear, fight, and flight. The image of the creepy clown just takes advantage of this.
There you have it, the classic whiteface-auguste clown is officially creepy; sorry Bozo. Let’s just all hope this fad passes soon; then we can get back to all the other things that scare us.
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Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.
The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.
A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.
- Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
- The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
- According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.
- When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
- When this phenomenon happens in the pharmaceutical world, companies quickly apply for broad protection of their patents, which can last up to 20 years, and fence off research areas for others. The result of this? They stay at the top of the ladder, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
- Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation the same as product invention. Companies should still receive an incentive for coming up with new products, he says, but not 20 years if the product is the result of "tweaking" an existing one.
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