The other day my friend said she felt “creeped out.” Is there such a thing and, if so, have there been any studies about it?
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:
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