Why Are Some Of Us Freaked Out By Clowns? Here Are Some Scientific Explanations

They're just too creepy.

Cover image via Warner Bros

Has watching 'IT' left you with nothing but hallucinations and nightmares of the freaky Pennywise?

Image via Giphy

If so, you're most definitely not alone

The fear of clowns is known as Coulrophobia, a phobia many people across the world identify with.

And though not everyone suffers from a full-blown phobia, most people do seem to be in agreement that clowns are indeed a little bit creepy.

But why is that? Aren't clowns supposed to make you happy?

In theory, a clown is just a regular person in heavy makeup and bright clothes. Their gags and slapstick style comedy are meant to be foolish enough to make you laugh.

But ironically, their signature appearance and traits are exactly what turns them from lovable buffoons into horrifying monsters.

A clown's creepiness seems to stem largely from the 'uncanny valley' effect

The 'uncanny valley' is a term that is used to describe something that is made to look like a human but is just somewhat off. So if something has very human-like features and attributes but is somehow not completely human, it comes across as very unsettling.

The concept was first hypothesised by Japanese roboticist, Masahiro Mori, who realised that robots who looked more human were more likely to make actual humans repulsed.

However, not everything with human-like features automatically comes under uncanny valley territory.

There is a clear difference between how we feel about WALL-E

Image via HD Wallpapers

And how we feel about this CGI girl

How creepy something looks depends on exactly how human it looks

In a nutshell, this is how the concept of uncanny valley works:

When non-human things start to look and act more and more human, we think of them as getting cuter and cuter. But at a certain point, adding too many human qualities can make something look too human. This is the point where it'll drastically drop from being really really cute, to really really creepy.

We think Wall-E the robot is cute because he has big eyes and tiny hands and sort of acts human, but we can clearly tell that he isn't. However, realistic CGI characters like that girl try so hard to be human that they look a little strange to us.

Our brains are really good at distinguishing human faces. We like being able to tell what is human and what isn't. So the appearance of an almost-human can trigger some alarms up in your head.

Uncanny valley territory is right at the point where your brain stops registering something as 'not human', and begins registering them as 'human', but before said thing looks like an actual human. You feel really uneasy because this 'human' face has failed your brain's 'human test'.

A clown is a human that doesn't look or act human at all

Clowns, with their painted-on smiles and exaggerated facial features, provide our brains with a recognisably-human face that doesn't look like it should.

And it's not just their face, as a clown's general posture, movement and stance is all out of whack compared to an actual human.

On a deeply subconscious level, your brain finds all of this very unsettling.

And things that are unsettling trigger all kinds of reactions in your body

Image via Tumblr: maudit

Your mind does not like it when it can't predict what will happen next. So when it sees an unsettling creature, it does whatever it can to make you stay away at all costs.

So don't feel too bad if clowns creep you out

If Pennywise has triggered your huge and irrational clown phobia, you might be glad to know that a super hot guy is hiding underneath all that makeup:

And if clowns aren't creepy enough for you, maybe one of these will do the trick:

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