Your heart pounds. Your breath quickens. Your palms sweat. We all know the symptoms of fear, but what about the science behind it?
Where Does Fear Come From?
We are born with just two innate fears – the fear of loud sounds and the fear of falling. Everything else is a learned fear, influenced by our culture and environment.
The amygdala, situated behind the eyes and over from the ear, acts as the brain’s alarm system. Without it, humanity would not have survived to the present day.
When the amygdala receives warning signs, such as pain and sound, it sends a signal to the body to respond by increasing respiration, blood pressure and heart rate, along with a surge of stress hormones.
The hippocampus triggers the “fight or flight” response. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to pump hormones.
Why Do Some People Enjoy Being Scared?
While no one wants to experience a truly life-threatening situation, there are lots of people who thoroughly enjoy being frightened.
The natural high we experience during a “fight or flight” response can feel great. One of the hormones released during a frightening experience is dopamine. Research has shown that different brains release different amounts of dopamine that could explain why some of us get more of a kick out of fear than others.
How Can We Overcome Fear?
Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to overcome a fear is to be continually exposed to it. Through constant exposure, the brain’s tolerance for the fear increases dramatically.
Why Do Different People Fear Different Things?
It all comes down to our environment and experiences. The society you’re raised in and the things you’re exposed to has will have a lot to do with what terrifies you.
Studies have shown that humans can learn to be afraid of anything. One of the most famous of these was the ethically-questionable Baby Albert experiment in which a child was conditioned to experience fear at the sight of anything fluffy. The experiment was conducted in 1920, and the full name of the baby involved wasn’t revealed so we will probably never know the psychological impacts he experienced later in life…
Are you someone who loves a good dose of fear? Check out The Truth Behind Zombies here.