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Hole-y Phobia May Have Evolutionary Origins

Images that induce trypophobia, the fear of holes, share visual features with images of certain venomous animals, implying that the aversion has an evolutionary basis. Allie Wilkinson reports

If the sight of Swiss cheese makes you melt or the thought of a honeycomb gets you buzzing, you may suffer from trypophobia, the most common phobia that you've probably never heard of. Trypophobia is the fear of holes. People with the phobia experience panic attacks, increased heart rate and hot sweats when they see clusters of holes.
 
A visual scientist who suffers from trypophobia decided to investigate the phenomenon with his colleague. They performed spectral analysis on images that induce trypophobia and found that the fear-inducing images all had similar characteristics related to luminescence, contrast and light wavelengths. But they didn’t know why these features caused such an adverse reaction.
 
A study participant mentioned that certain animals also induced his phobia. So the researchers analyzed pictures of poisonous animals.
 
They discovered that the trypophobia-inducing images and those of poisonous animals shared the same visual features, suggesting the fear may be an evolutionary survival response. The study is in the journal Psychological Science. [Geoff G Cole and Arnold J Wilkins, Fear of holes
 
So if an english muffin induces a panic attack, your brain may just be saying better safe than sorry.

—Allie Wilkinson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
 

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