With clowns and clown strikes making news headlines around the globe it is hardly surprising that a growing number of people are creating a fear of clowns.
In actuality, it’s believed that approximately 2% of the population suffer with clown phobia, together with the ‘ihateclowns’ Facebook page record almost half a million enjoys.
Perhaps the main reason clowns can seem so terrifying is because the clown’s make-up makes it impossible to read real human emotion.
So as to feel secure, as sighted people we rely on visual cues, facial expressions especially help us to quickly evaluate an individual’s character.
Together with the clown’s painted face we simply can’t do that. The man or woman is hiding behind the make-up, and when a man or woman is hiding we might believe he has something to hide – maybe even something not in any way nice.
We might feel that there is something dark or sinister lurking behind the make-up – as was the case with the American mass murderer John Wayne Gacey who in the 1970s, dressed as a clown known as ‘Pogo, murdered over 35 young individuals. He did not of course, because he had been executed for his crimes.
The ‘menace behind the make-up’ is something which the films have picked up on. Heath Ledger’s version of ‘The Joker’ in the Batman film for example was composed as a clown, and this made him look even more menacing, more unsettling.
And of course there’s an element of lunacy from the clown’s antics, something inconsistent and out of control about them that can be quite unsettling, something which perhaps disturbs our sense of ‘normality’.
There appears to be a cultural element in children’s reaction to clowns, however. Research in the University of Sheffield in the UK, by way of instance, found that most kids disliked and even dreaded images of clowns.
While Italian researchers found that children hospitalized for respiratory disorders got better quicker after playing ‘curative clowns’.
Regardless of the reason for people’s dislike or fear of clowns, the ‘clown strikes’ currently hitting the news will definitely add to this, possibly for many years to come.
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