Monday, December 19, 2016

Creepiness and the Brain

The first empirical study on the common psychological experience of feeling creeped out (that I am aware of) was conducted by Francis T. McAndrew and Sara S. Koehnke of the Department of Psychology, Knox College, Galesburg, IL. The article On the Nature of Creepiness” was published in New Ideas in Psychology, March 2016. The researchers propose that creepy is a qualitatively different characteristic as compared with concepts such as being terrified or disgusted. In those situations the conclusions drawn about the person in question are much more clear-cut. Rather it may be related to the brain’s agency-detection mechanisms. Some study conclusions were:

  • Individuals perceived as creepy are more likely to be males
  • Some occupations and hobbies are more strongly linked with creepiness than others (with clowns leading the list)
  • Females are more likely to perceive sexual threat from an individual perceived as creepy
  • The trait of unpredictability is an important component of creepiness

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