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Each week on TestTubePlus, we cover one topic from multiple angles. This week, we are covering fear: What purpose does it serve, how its crippling our everyday lives, how to treat it, and more. For the first episode of the series, Trace explained how our brain reacts to fear. Today, he explains how some of our most basic fears may be embedded in our DNA.
Being afraid of the dark is probably the most ubiquitous fears young kids have. Some evolutionary scientists believe this stems from the fact that early man needed to be on high alert at night to avoid predator attack. Lions are nocturnal hunters: they spend hot days trying to stay cool, but once the sun sets, they start to hunt. After generations of nighttime predator attacks, it makes sense that those with a healthy dose of the fear of the dark had a better chance at surviving these attacks. Using this logic, we can blame other common fears (spiders, snakes, etc.) on our ancestors as well. According to a study from Columbia University, arachnophobia dates back to the early evolutionary phases of humans in Africa where venomous spiders posed a pretty serious health threat.
So some fears make sense, and help us survive, but many don't seem to make sense or serve an evolutionary purpose whatsoever. Like clowns, for instance: They're supposed to bring fun to the party, but most people find them downright creepy. It turns out that clowns actually have sinister origins: medieval fools were used to "remind us of our mortality, our animal nature, of how unreasonable and ridiculous and petty we can be." Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Steven Schlozman explains, "if [clowns] didn't make the king laugh, they paid a pretty steep price. Unfunny jesters face muscles were mutilated so their faces smiled all the time." It doesn't get any creepier than that.
TestTube Plus is built for enthusiastic science fans seeking out comprehensive conversations on the geeky topics they love. Each week, host Trace Dominguez probes deep to unearth the details, latest developments, and opinions on big topics like terrorism, alcohol, survival, black holes, the history of religion, dreams, space travel, the history of science, and more. TestTube Plus is also available as a podcast--click here to subscribe!
Modern phobias: The new fears caused by pressures of 21st century living (Mirror.co.uk)
"We are, it seems, a nation of nomophobes. That doesn't mean we are all now scared of garden ornaments - but that most of us are terrified of being without our mobile phones. According to a new study more than half of Brits suffer from nomophobia - an abbreviation of no-mobile-phone-phobia."
How Fear Works (How Stuff Works)
"The process of creating fear takes place in the brain and is entirely unconscious. There are two paths involved in the fear response: The low road is quick and messy, while the high road takes more time and delivers a more precise interpretation of events. Both processes are happening simultaneously."
What really happens when you're afraid? (Advocate Health Care)
"Your heart is pounding in your chest, your breathing is heavy, your hands are clammy and your muscles are tense. You're terrified, and whether it's from a fake zombie at a haunted house or something closer to reality, the reactions that your body goes through are no trick (or treat). But what are those reactions? What is really going on when you're scared?"
Why your brain shuts down when you're afraid (i09)
"Why can't you think straight when you're terrified? It's a question that haunted many people in the wake of yesterday's explosions in Boston, and neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz explains the answer to you over at Time."