Here is news of a research paper that claims that fear of holes is an evolutionary survival response because
New research by visual science experts Dr Geoff Cole and Professor Arnold Wilkins from the University of Essex suggests that trypophobia [fear of holes] may occur as a result of a specific visual feature also found among various poisonous animals. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“These findings suggest that there may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal,” explained Dr Cole.
Stop, wait. I want to go back to the title of the release: “Common Phobia You Have Never Heard Of: Fear of Holes May Stem from Evolutionary Survival Response.”
The fact is, I never did hear of anyone who had a “phobia” about holes. To the extent that injury from blundering into a hole is an actual, serious risk, fear of holes is quite reasonable. However like many fears, it can be exaggerated. Apparently, it has now become a buzz diagnosis of the moment, and the evolutionary psychologists are not far behind:
The researchers at Essex concluded that trypophobia may have an evolutionary basis — clusters of holes may be aversive because they happen to share a visual feature with animals that humans have learned to avoid as a matter of survival.
Apparently, some visual features of some poisonous animals can look like clusters of holes.
“We think that everyone has trypophobic tendencies even though they may not be aware of it,” said Dr Cole. “We found that people who don’t have the phobia still rate trypophobic images as less comfortable to look at than other images. It backs up the theory that we are set-up to be fearful of things which hurt us in our evolutionary past. We have an innate predisposition to be wary of things that can harm us.”
Can a pop sci book be far behind? And pop sci mag articles? Adorned with beautiful photos of the blue-ringed Aha! octopus that gave a key author the idea? Well, one guesses, that sure won’t be for lack of trying. Is there time for publication before Hallowe’en?
The odd thing is that if there were really an evolved fear of holes, one could readily assign a more commonsensical, likely universal, explanation. But why spoil the fun? No instead, you evolved to see this poisonous blue-ringed octopus as a series of holes: