Fear is an intensely unpleasant
emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, displeasure. There is currentl ...

in response to
or recognizing a danger or
threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. Intimidation is widely observed in animal behavior (particularly in a ritualized form) chiefly in order to avoid the unnecessary physical violence that can lead to ph ...

. Fear causes physiological changes that may produce
behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the Action (philosophy), actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or Arti ...
al reactions such as mounting an aggressive response or fleeing the threat. Fear in human beings may occur in response to a certain
stimulus A stimulus is something that causes a physiological response. It may refer to: *Stimulation Stimulation is the encouragement of development or the cause of activity generally. For example, "The press provides stimulation of political discourse." ...
occurring in the present, or in
anticipation Anticipation is an emotion involving pleasure or anxiety in considering or awaiting an Expectation (epistemic), expected event. As a defence mechanism Robin Skynner considered anticipation as one of "the mature ways of dealing with real stress... ...

or expectation of a future threat perceived as a
risk In simple terms, risk is the possibility of something bad happening. Risk involves uncertainty Uncertainty refers to Epistemology, epistemic situations involving imperfect or unknown information. It applies to predictions of future events, to p ...

to oneself. The fear response arises from the
perception Perception (from the Latin ''perceptio'', meaning gathering or receiving) is the organization, identification, and interpretation of Sense, sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information or environment. ...

danger Danger is a lack of safety and may refer to: Places * Danger Cave, an archaeological site in Utah * Danger Island, Great Chagos Bank, Indian Ocean * Danger Island, alternate name of Pukapuka Atoll in the Cook Islands, Pacific Ocean * Danger Island ...

leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the
fight-or-flight response The fight-or-flight-or-freeze or the fight-flight response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack Attack may refer to: Warfare and combat ...
), which in extreme cases of fear (
horror and terror The distinction between horror and terror is a standard literary and psychological concept applied especially to Gothic and horror fiction Horror is a genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, or disgust. Literary ...
) can be a freeze response or
paralysis Paralysis (also known as plegia) is a loss of motor function in one or more muscle Muscle is a soft tissue found in most animals. Muscle cells contain protein Proteins are large biomolecules or macromolecules that are comprised of ...
. In humans and other animals, fear is modulated by the process of
cognition Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual functions and processes such as: attention, the formation of ...
and learning. Thus, fear is judged as
rational Rationality is the quality or state of being rational – that is, being based on or agreeable to reason Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογι ...
or appropriate and
irrational Irrationality is cognition Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual functions and processes such as: ...
or inappropriate. An irrational fear is called a
phobia A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder Anxiety disorders are a cluster of mental disorder A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or imp ...
. Fear is closely related to the emotion
anxiety Anxiety is an emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, displ ...

, which occurs as the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable. The fear response serves survival by engendering appropriate behavioral responses, so it has been preserved throughout
evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction, ...

. Sociological and organizational research also suggests that individuals' fears are not solely dependent on their nature but are also shaped by their social relations and culture, which guide their understanding of when and how much fear to feel. Fear is sometimes considered the opposite of
courage Courage (also called bravery or valour) is the choice and willingness to confront Suffering, agony, pain, Risk, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Valour is courage or bravery, especially in battle. Physical courage is bravery in the face ...

; however, this is incorrect. Because courage is a willingness to face adversity, fear is an example of a condition that makes the exercise of courage possible.

Physiological signs

Many physiological changes in the body are associated with fear, summarized as the
fight-or-flight response The fight-or-flight-or-freeze or the fight-flight response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack Attack may refer to: Warfare and combat ...
. An innate response for coping with danger, it works by accelerating the breathing rate (
hyperventilation Hyperventilation occurs when the rate or tidal volume of breathing eliminates more carbon dioxide than the body can produce. This leads to hypocapnia, a reduced concentration of carbon dioxide dissolved in the blood. The body normally attempts ...
), heart rate, vasoconstriction of the peripheral blood vessels leading to blood pooling, increasing muscle tension including the muscles attached to each hair follicle to contract and causing "goosebumps", or more clinically,
piloerection Goose bumps, goosebumps or goose-pimples are the bumps on a person's skin at the base of body hairs which may involuntarily develop when a person is tickled, cold , a common physiological response to cold, aiming to reduce the loss of bod ...
(making a cold person warmer or a frightened animal look more impressive), sweating, increased blood glucose (
hyperglycemia Hyperglycemia is a condition in which an excessive amount of glucose circulates in the blood plasma. This is generally a blood sugar level higher than 11.1 Blood sugar#Units, mmol/l (200 Blood sugar#Units, mg/dl), but symptoms may not st ...

), increased serum calcium, increase in white blood cells called neutrophilic leukocytes, alertness leading to sleep disturbance and "butterflies in the stomach" (
dyspepsia Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia or upset stomach, is a condition of "impaired digestion". Symptoms may include upper abdominal fullness, heartburn, nausea Nausea is a diffuse sensation of unease and discomfort, often perceived as an ur ...
). This primitive mechanism may help an organism survive by either running away or fighting the danger. With the series of physiological changes, the consciousness realizes an emotion of fear.


An influential categorization of stimuli causing fear was proposed by
Gray Grey or gray (American English alternative; American and British English spelling differences#Miscellaneous spelling differences, see spelling differences) is an intermediate color between black and white. It is a neutral color or achromatic col ...
; namely, intensity,
novelty Novelty (derived from Latin word novus for "new") is the quality of being new, or following from that, of being striking, original or unusual. Novelty may be the shared experience of a new cultural phenomenon or the subjective perception of an indi ...

, special evolutionary dangers, stimuli arising during social interaction, and
conditionedConditioning may refer to: Science, computing, and technology * Air conditioning, the removal of heat from indoor air for thermal comfort ** Automobile air conditioning, air conditioning in a vehicle ** Ice storage air conditioning, air conditioni ...

stimuli. Another categorization was proposed by Archer, who, besides conditioned fear stimuli, categorized fear-evoking (as well as
aggression Aggression is overt or covert, often harmful, social interaction with the intention of inflicting damage or other harm upon another individual. It may occur either reactively or without provocation. In humans, aggression can be caused by various ...
-evoking) stimuli into three groups; namely,
pain Pain is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. The International Association for the Study of Pain The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) is an international learned society A learned society ...
, novelty, and
frustration In psychology, frustration is a common emotional response to opposition, related to anger Anger, also known as wrath or Rage (emotion), rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a ...

, although he also described “
looming ''Looming'' is a term found in the study of perception, as it relates directly to psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenom ...
,” which refers to an object rapidly moving towards the visual sensors of a subject, and can be categorized as “intensity.” Russell described a more functional categorization of fear-evoking stimuli, in which for instance novelty is a variable affecting more than one category: 1) Predator stimuli (including movement, suddenness, proximity, but also learned and innate predator stimuli); 2) Physical environmental dangers (including intensity and heights); 3) Stimuli associated with increased risk of predation and other dangers (including novelty, openness, illumination, and being alone); 4) Stimuli stemming from conspecifics (including novelty, movement, and spacing behavior); 5) Species-predictable fear stimuli and experience (special evolutionary dangers); and 6) Fear stimuli that are not species predictable (conditioned fear stimuli).

Innate fear

Although many fears are learned, the capacity to fear is part of
human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or wont as a humorous and formal term) is a routine of behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British E ...

human nature
. Many studies have found that certain fears (e.g. animals, heights) are much more common than others (e.g. flowers, clouds). These fears are also easier to induce in the laboratory. This phenomenon is known as
preparedness ''Preparedness'' refers to a research-based set of actions that are taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters. These actions can include both physical preparations (such as emergency supplies depots, or adapting buildings ...
. Because early humans that were quick to fear dangerous situations were more likely to survive and reproduce, preparedness is theorized to be a genetic effect that is the result of
natural selection Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, traits characteristic of a populatio ...
. From an
evolutionary psychology Evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach in the social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchang ...
perspective, different fears may be different
adaptation In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechani ...

s that have been useful in our evolutionary past. They may have developed during different time periods. Some fears, such as fear of heights, may be common to all
mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in Female#Mammalian female, females produce milk ...
s and developed during the
mesozoic The Mesozoic Era ( ), also called the Age of Reptiles and the Age of Conifers, is the second-to-last era of Earth's geological history, lasting from about and comprising the Triassic The Triassic ( ) is a geologic period and system A system ...
period. Other fears, such as fear of snakes, may be common to all
simian The simians, anthropoids or higher primates are an infraorder (Simiiformes ) of primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutherian mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of ve ...

s and developed during the
cenozoic The Cenozoic ( ; ) is Earth's current geological era An era is a span of time defined for the purposes of chronology or historiography, as in the regnal eras in the history of a given monarchy, a calendar era used for a given calendar, or the ge ...

time period. Still others, such as fear of mice and insects, may be unique to humans and developed during the
paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, wikt:λίθος, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone too ...
neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
time periods (when mice and insects become important carriers of infectious diseases and harmful for crops and stored foods).

Learned fear

Animals and humans innovate specific fears as a result of learning. This has been studied in psychology as
fear conditioning Pavlovian fear conditioning is a behavioral paradigm in which organisms learn to predict aversive events. It is a form of learning Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding Understanding is a psychological process related to conc ...
, beginning with John B. Watson's
Little Albert experiment The Little Albert experiment was a controlled experiment showing empirical Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation. ...
in 1920, which was inspired after observing a child with an irrational fear of dogs. In this study, an 11-month-old boy was conditioned to fear a white rat in the laboratory. The fear became generalized to include other white, furry objects, such as a rabbit, dog, and even a ball of cotton. Fear can be learned by experiencing or watching a frightening traumatic accident. For example, if a child falls into a well and struggles to get out, he or she may develop a fear of wells, heights (
acrophobia Acrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear Fear is an intensely unpleasant emotion in response to perception, perceiving or recognizing a danger or threat. Fear causes physiological changes that may produce behavioral reactions such as moun ...

), enclosed spaces (
claustrophobia Claustrophobia is the fear of confined spaces. It can be triggered by many situations or stimuli, including elevator An elevator (North American English) or lift (Commonwealth English) is a type of wire rope, cable-assisted, roller-track a ...

), or water (
aquaphobia Aquaphobia () is an irrational fear of water. Aquaphobia is considered a Specific Phobia of natural environment type in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders'' ( ...
). There are studies looking at areas of the brain that are affected in relation to fear. When looking at these areas (such as the
amygdala The amygdala (; plural: amygdalae or amygdalas; also '; Latin from Greek language, Greek, , ', 'almond', 'tonsil') is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nucleus (neuroanatomy), nuclei located deep and lateral and medial, medially within the ...

), it was proposed that a person learns to fear regardless of whether they themselves have experienced trauma, or if they have observed the fear in others. In a study completed by Andreas Olsson, Katherine I. Nearing and Elizabeth A. Phelps, the amygdala were affected both when subjects observed someone else being submitted to an aversive event, knowing that the same treatment awaited themselves, and when subjects were subsequently placed in a fear-provoking situation. This suggests that fear can develop in both conditions, not just simply from personal history. Fear is affected by cultural and historical context. For example, in the early 20th century, many Americans feared
polio Poliomyelitis, commonly shortened to polio, is an infectious disease An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host (biology) ...

, a disease that can lead to paralysis. There are consistent cross-cultural differences in how people respond to fear.
Display rules Display rules are a social group or culture's informal norms that distinguish how one should express themselves. They can be described as culturally prescribed rules that people learn early on in their lives by interactions and socializations with ...
affect how likely people are to express the facial expression of fear and other emotions. Fear of
victimization Victimisation (American and British English spelling differences#-ise.2C -ize .28-isation.2C -ization.29, or victimization) is the process of being victimised or becoming a wikt:victim, victim. The field that studies the process, rates, incidence, ...
is a function of perceived risk and seriousness.

Common triggers


According to surveys, some of the most common fears are of
demon A demon is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatural By definition, a supernatural manifestation or event requires ...

s and
ghost In folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as Narrative, tales, proverbs ...

s, the existence of
evil Evil, in a general sense, is defined by what it is not—the opposite or absence of good 175px, In many religions, angels are considered to be good beings. In most contexts, the concept of good denotes the conduct that should be preferred w ...
cockroach Cockroaches (or roaches) are insects of the order Blattodea, which also includes termite Termites are Eusociality, eusocial insects that are classified at the Taxonomy (biology), taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as Taxonomic rank ...

spider Spiders (order (biology), order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, chelicerae with fangs generally able to inject venom, and spinnerets that extrude spider silk, silk. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank se ...

snake Snakes are elongated, limbless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes . Like all other squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote Amniotes (from Greek ἀμνίον ''amnion'', "membrane surrounding the fetus", earlier "bowl ...

, Trypophobia,
water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living organisms (in which it acts ...

enclosed spaces
enclosed spaces
tunnel A tunnel is an underground passageway, dug through the surrounding soil/earth/rock and enclosed except for entrance and exit, commonly at each end. A pipeline Pipeline may refer to: Electronics, computers and computing * Pipeline (computi ...

bridge A bridge is a structure A structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to ...

s, needles,
social rejection Social rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from a interpersonal relationship, social relationship or social interaction. The topic includes ''interpersonal rejection'' (or peer rejection), ''romantic rejection'' and ''fami ...
failure Image:Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895.jpg, The 1895 Montparnasse derailment in Paris, alt= Failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective (goal), objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of Success (conc ...

examinations A test or examination (informally, exam or evaluation) is an educational assessment Educational assessment or educational evaluation is the systematic process of documenting and using empirical data on the knowledge, skill, attitudes, and be ...
, and
public speaking Public speaking, also called oratory or oration, has traditionally meant the act of speaking face to face to a live audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art A work of ...

public speaking

Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown or irrational fear is caused by negative thinking (
worry Worry refers to the thoughts, images, emotions, and actions of a negative nature in a repetitive, uncontrollable manner that results from a proactive cognitive risk analysis made to avoid or solve anticipated potential threats and their poten ...

) which arises from
anxiety Anxiety is an emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, displ ...
accompanied by a subjective sense of apprehension or dread. Irrational fear shares a common neural pathway with other fears, a pathway that engages the nervous system to mobilize bodily resources in the face of danger or threat. Many people are scared of the "unknown". The irrational fear can branch out to many areas such as the hereafter, the next ten years or even tomorrow. Chronic irrational fear has deleterious effects since the elicitor stimulus is commonly absent or perceived from delusions. Such fear can create
comorbidity In medicine Medicine is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable e ...

with the
anxiety disorder Anxiety disorders are a cluster of mental disorder A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such feat ...
umbrella. Being scared may cause people to experience
fear of what may lie ahead rather than planning and evaluating for the same. For example, "continuation of scholarly education" is perceived by many educators as a risk that may cause them fear and stress, and they would rather teach things they've been taught than go and do research. The ambiguity of situations that tend to be uncertain and unpredictable can cause anxiety in addition to other psychological and physical problems in some populations; especially those who engage it constantly, for example, in war-ridden places or in places of conflict, terrorism, abuse, etc. Poor
parenting Parenting or child rearing promotes and supports the physical Physical may refer to: *Physical examination, a regular overall check-up with a doctor *Physical (album), ''Physical'' (album), a 1981 album by Olivia Newton-John **Physical (Olivia N ...
that instills fear can also debilitate a child's psyche development or personality. For example, parents tell their children not to talk to strangers in order to protect them. In school, they would be motivated to not show fear in talking with strangers, but to be assertive and also aware of the risks and the environment in which it takes place. Ambiguous and mixed messages like this can affect their self-esteem and self-confidence. Researchers say talking to strangers isn't something to be thwarted but allowed in a parent's presence if required. Developing a sense of
equanimity Equanimity (Latin: ''æquanimitas'', having an even mind; ''aequus'' even; ''animus'' mind/soul) is a state of inner peace, psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenome ...

to handle various situations is often advocated as an antidote to irrational fear and as an essential skill by a number of ancient philosophies. Fear of the unknown (FOTU) "may be a, or possibly the, fundamental fear".

In U.S.

In a 2005
Gallup Poll Gallup, Inc. is an American analytics and advisory company based in Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial on t ...
(U.S.), a national sample of about 1000 adolescents (aged 13 to 17) were asked what they feared the most as an open-ended question. The American adolescents reported perceiving their top 10 fears as follows:
terrorist attacks File:Terrorism deaths per year by country.jpg, 260px, Terrorism deaths per year by country The following is a list of terrorist incidents that have not been carried out by a State (polity), state or its forces (see state terrorism and state- ...
spiders Spiders ( order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropod An arthropod (, (gen. ποδός)) is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a Segmentation (biology), segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Arthropods form the phylum Euar ...
death (1906) Death is the permanent, Irreversible process, irreversible cessation of all biological process, biological functions that sustain a living organism. Brain death is sometimes used as a legal definition of death. The remains of a previ ...
, failure,
war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (news ...

criminal In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper) ...
gang violence A gang is a social group, group or secret society, society of associates, friends or members of a family with a defined leadership and internal organization that identifies with or claims control over Territory (animal), territory in a communit ...
, being alone, the future, and
nuclear war Nuclear warfare (sometimes atomic warfare or thermonuclear warfare) is a military conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary ...
. In an estimate of what Americans fear the most, book author Bill Tancer analyzed the most frequent online queries that involved the phrase, "fear of..." following the assumption that people tend to seek information on the issues that concern them the most. His top ten list of fears published 2008 consisted of flying,
clowns A clown wears a unique makeup-face and flamboyant costume, performing comedy Comedy (from the el, wikt:κωμῳδία, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction consisting of discourses or works intended to be humorous or am ...
intimacy An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship The concept of interpersonal relationship involves social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. Interpersonal relationships vary in their degree of ...
, death, rejection,
people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of ...
, Ophidiophobia, snakes, failure, and Driving phobia, driving.

Fear behavior

Although fear behavior varies from species to species, it is often divided into two main categories; namely, avoidance/flight and immobility. To these, different researchers have added different categories, such as threat Display (zoology), display and attack, protective responses (including Startle response, startle and
looming ''Looming'' is a term found in the study of perception, as it relates directly to psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenom ...
responses), defensive burying, and social responses (including alarm vocalizations and submission). Finally, immobility is often divided into Freezing behavior, freezing and tonic immobility. The decision as to which particular fear behavior to perform is determined by the level of fear as well as the specific context, such as environmental characteristics (escape route present, distance to refuge), the presence of a discrete and localized threat, the distance between threat and subject, threat characteristics (speed, size, directness of approach), the characteristics of the subject under threat (size, physical condition, speed, degree of crypsis, protective morphological structures), social conditions (group size), and the amount of experience with the type of the threat.


Often laboratory studies with rats are conducted to examine the acquisition and extinction of fear conditioning, conditioned fear responses. In 2004, researchers conditioned rats (''Rattus norvegicus'') to fear a certain stimulus, through electric shock. The researchers were able to then cause an extinction of this conditioned fear, to a point that no medications or drugs were able to further aid in the extinction process. However, the rats did show signs of avoidance learning, not fear, but simply avoiding the area that brought pain to the test rats. The avoidance learning of rats is seen as a conditioned response, and therefore the behavior can be unconditioned, as supported by the earlier research. Species-specific defense reactions (SSDRs) or avoidance learning in nature is the specific tendency to avoid certain threats or stimuli, it is how animals survive in the wild. Humans and animals both share these species-specific defense reactions, such as the flight-or-fight, which also include pseudo-aggression, fake or intimidating aggression and freeze response to threats, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. These SSDRs are learned very quickly through social interactions between others of the same species, other species, and interaction with the environment. These acquired sets of reactions or responses are not easily forgotten. The animal that survives is the animal that already knows what to fear and how to avoid this threat. An example in humans is the reaction to the sight of a snake, many jump backwards before cognitively realizing what they are jumping away from, and in some cases, it is a stick rather than a snake. As with many functions of the brain, there are various regions of the brain involved in deciphering fear in humans and other nonhuman species. The
amygdala The amygdala (; plural: amygdalae or amygdalas; also '; Latin from Greek language, Greek, , ', 'almond', 'tonsil') is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nucleus (neuroanatomy), nuclei located deep and lateral and medial, medially within the ...

communicates both directions between the prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus, the sensory cortex, the hippocampus, thalamus, septum, and the brainstem. The amygdala plays an important role in SSDR, such as the ventral amygdalofugal, which is essential for associative learning, and SSDRs are learned through interaction with the environment and others of the same species. An emotional response is created only after the signals have been relayed between the different regions of the brain, and activating the sympathetic nervous systems; which controls the flight, fight, freeze, fright, and faint response. Often a damaged amygdala can cause impairment in the recognition of fear (like the human case of S.M. (patient), patient S.M.). This impairment can cause different species to lack the sensation of fear, and often can become overly confident, confronting larger peers, or walking up to predatory creatures. Robert C. Bolles (1970), a researcher at University of Washington, wanted to understand species-specific defense reactions and avoidance learning among animals, but found that the theories of avoidance learning and the tools that were used to measure this tendency were out of touch with the natural world. He theorized the species-specific defense reaction (SSDR). There are three forms of SSDRs: flight, fight (pseudo-aggression), or freeze. Even domesticated animals have SSDRs, and in those moments it is seen that animals revert to atavistic standards and become "wild" again. Dr. Bolles states that responses are often dependent on the reinforcement of a safety signal, and not the aversive conditioned stimuli. This safety signal can be a source of feedback or even stimulus change. Intrinsic feedback or information coming from within, muscle twitches, increased heart rate, are seen to be more important in SSDRs than extrinsic feedback, stimuli that comes from the external environment. Dr. Bolles found that most creatures have some intrinsic set of fears, to help assure survival of the species. Rats will run away from any Acute stress disorder, shocking event, and pigeons will flap their wings harder when threatened. The wing flapping in pigeons and the scattered running of rats are considered species-specific defense reactions or behaviors. Bolles believed that SSDRs are conditioned through Pavlovian conditioning, and not operant conditioning; SSDRs arise from the association between the environmental stimuli and adverse events. Michael S. Fanselow conducted an experiment, to test some specific defense reactions, he observed that rats in two different shock situations responded differently, based on instinct or defensive topography, rather than contextual information. Species-specific defense responses are created out of fear, and are essential for survival. Rats that lack the gene stathmin show no avoidance learning, or a lack of fear, and will often walk directly up to cats and be eaten. Animals use these SSDRs to continue living, to help increase their chance of Fitness (biology), fitness, by surviving long enough to procreate. Humans and animals alike have created fear to know what should be avoided, and this fear can be learned through Learning, association with others in the community, or learned through personal experience with a creature, species, or situations that should be avoided. SSDRs are an evolutionary adaptation that has been seen in many species throughout the world including rats, Pan (genus), chimpanzees, prairie dogs, and even humans, an adaptation created to help individual creatures survive in a hostile world. Fear learning changes across the lifetime due to natural developmental changes in the brain. This includes changes in the prefrontal cortex and the
amygdala The amygdala (; plural: amygdalae or amygdalas; also '; Latin from Greek language, Greek, , ', 'almond', 'tonsil') is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nucleus (neuroanatomy), nuclei located deep and lateral and medial, medially within the ...

. The visual exploration of an emotional face does not follow a fixed pattern but modulated by the emotional content of the face. Scheller et al. found that participants paid more attention to the eyes when recognising fearful or neutral faces, while the mouth was fixated on when happy faces are presented, irrespective of task demands and spatial locations of face stimuli. These findings were replicated when fearful eyes are presented and when canonical face configurations are distorted for fearful, neutral and happy expressions.

Neurocircuit in mammals

* The thalamus collects sensory data from the senses * Sensory cortex receives data from the thalamus and interprets it * Sensory cortex organizes information for dissemination to the hypothalamus (fight or flight), amygdalae (fear), hippocampus (memory) The brain structures that are the center of most neurobiological events associated with fear are the two amygdalae, located behind the pituitary gland. Each amygdala is part of a circuitry of fear learning. They are essential for proper adaptation to stress and specific modulation of emotional learning memory. In the presence of a threatening stimulus, the amygdalae generate the secretion of hormones that influence fear and aggression. Once a response to the stimulus in the form of fear or aggression commences, the amygdalae may elicit the release of hormones into the body to put the person into a state of alertness, in which they are ready to move, run, fight, etc. This defensive response is generally referred to in physiology as the
fight-or-flight response The fight-or-flight-or-freeze or the fight-flight response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack Attack may refer to: Warfare and combat ...
regulated by the hypothalamus, part of the limbic system. Once the person is in safe mode, meaning that there are no longer any potential threats surrounding them, the amygdalae will send this information to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) where it is stored for similar future situations, which is known as memory consolidation. Some of the hormones involved during the state of fight-or-flight include adrenaline, epinephrine, which regulates heart rate and metabolism as well as dilating blood vessels and air passages, norepinephrine increasing heart rate, blood flow to skeletal muscles and the release of glucose from energy stores, and cortisol which increases blood sugar, increases circulating neutrophilic leukocytes, calcium amongst other things. After a situation which incites fear occurs, the amygdalae and hippocampus record the event through synaptic neuroplasticity, plasticity. The stimulation to the hippocampus will cause the individual to remember many details surrounding the situation. Plasticity and memory formation in the amygdala are generated by activation of the neurons in the region. Experimental data supports the notion that synaptic plasticity of the neurons leading to the lateral amygdalae occurs with fear conditioning. In some cases, this forms permanent fear responses such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a
phobia A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder Anxiety disorders are a cluster of mental disorder A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or imp ...
. MRI and fMRI scans have shown that the amygdalae in individuals diagnosed with such disorders including bipolar disorder, bipolar or panic disorder are larger and wired for a higher level of fear. Pathogens can suppress amygdala activity. Rats infected with the toxoplasmosis parasite become less fearful of cats, sometimes even seeking out their urine-marked areas. This behavior often leads to them being eaten by cats. The parasite then reproduces within the body of the cat. There is evidence that the parasite concentrates itself in the amygdala of infected rats. In a separate experiment, rats with lesions in the amygdala did not express fear or anxiety towards unwanted stimuli. These rats pulled on levers supplying food that sometimes sent out electrical shocks. While they learned to avoid pressing on them, they did not distance themselves from these shock-inducing levers. Several brain structures other than the amygdalae have also been observed to be activated when individuals are presented with fearful vs. neutral faces, namely the occipitocerebellum, cerebellar regions including the fusiform gyrus and the Inferior parietal lobule, inferior parietal / Superior temporal gyrus, superior temporal gyri. Fearful eyes, brows and mouth seem to separately reproduce these brain responses. Scientists from Zurich studies show that the hormone oxytocin related to stress and sex reduces activity in your brain fear center.

Pheromones and why fear can be contagious

In threatening situations, insects, aquatic organisms, birds, reptiles, and mammals emit odorant substances, initially called alarm substances, which are chemical signals now called alarm pheromones. This is to defend themselves and at the same time to inform members of the same species of danger and leads to observable behavior change like freezing, defensive behavior, or dispersion depending on circumstances and species. For example, stressed rats release odorant cues that cause other rats to move away from the source of the signal. After the discovery of pheromones in 1959, alarm pheromones were first described in 1968 in ants and earthworms, and four years later also found in mammals, both mice and rats. Over the next two decades, identification and characterization of these pheromones proceeded in all manner of insects and sea animals, including fish, but it was not until 1990 that more insight into mammalian alarm pheromones was gleaned. Earlier, in 1985, a link between odors released by stressed rats and pain perception was discovered: unstressed rats exposed to these odors developed opioid-mediated analgesia. In 1997, researchers found that bees became less responsive to pain after they had been stimulated with isoamyl acetate, a chemical smelling of banana, and a component of bee alarm pheromone. The experiment also showed that the bees' fear-induced pain tolerance was mediated by an endorphine. By using the Behavioural despair test, forced swimming test in rats as a model of fear-induction, the first mammalian "alarm substance" was found. In 1991, this "alarm substance" was shown to fulfill criteria for pheromones: well-defined behavioral effect, species specificity, minimal influence of experience and control for nonspecific arousal. Rat activity testing with the alarm pheromone, and their preference/avoidance for odors from cylinders containing the pheromone, showed that the pheromone had very low Volatility (chemistry), volatility. In 1993 a connection between alarm chemosignals in mice and their immune system, immune response was found. Pheromone production in mice was found to be associated with or mediated by the pituitary gland in 1994. In 2004, it was demonstrated that rats' alarm pheromones had different effects on the "recipient" rat (the rat perceiving the pheromone) depending which body region they were released from: Pheromone production from the face modified behavior in the recipient rat, e.g. caused sniffing or movement, whereas pheromone secreted from the rat's anal area induced autonomic nervous system stress responses, like an increase in core body temperature. Further experiments showed that when a rat perceived alarm pheromones, it increased its defensive and risk assessment behavior, and its acoustic startle reflex was enhanced. It was not until 2011 that a link between severe pain, neuroinflammation and alarm pheromones release in rats was found: real time RT-PCR analysis of rat brain tissues indicated that shocking the footpad of a rat increased its production of proinflammatory cytokines in deep brain structures, namely of IL-1β, heteronuclear Corticotropin-releasing hormone and c-fos mRNA expressions in both the paraventricular nucleus and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and it increased stress hormone levels in plasma (corticosterone). The emotion#neurocircuitry, neurocircuit for how rats perceive alarm pheromones was shown to be related to the hypothalamus, brainstem, and
amygdala The amygdala (; plural: amygdalae or amygdalas; also '; Latin from Greek language, Greek, , ', 'almond', 'tonsil') is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nucleus (neuroanatomy), nuclei located deep and lateral and medial, medially within the ...

e, all of which are evolutionary ancient structures deep inside or in the case of the brainstem underneath the brain away from the cortex, and involved in the
fight-or-flight response The fight-or-flight-or-freeze or the fight-flight response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack Attack may refer to: Warfare and combat ...
, as is the case in humans. Alarm pheromone-induced anxiety in rats has been used to evaluate the degree to which anxiolytics can alleviate anxiety in humans. For this, the change in the startle response#acoustic startle reflex, acoustic startle reflex of rats with alarm pheromone-induced anxiety (i.e. reduction of defensiveness) has been measured. Pretreatment of rats with one of five anxiolytics used in clinical medicine was able to reduce their anxiety: namely midazolam, phenelzine (a nonselective monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor), propranolol, a nonselective beta blocker, clonidine, an alpha-2 adrenergic receptor#agonist, alpha 2 adrenergic agonist or CP-154,526, a corticotropin-releasing hormone antagonist. Faulty development of odor discrimination impairs the
perception Perception (from the Latin ''perceptio'', meaning gathering or receiving) is the organization, identification, and interpretation of Sense, sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information or environment. ...

of pheromones and pheromone-related behavior, like aggression, aggressive behavior and mating in male rats: The enzyme MAPK7, Mitogen-activated protein kinase 7 (MAPK7) has been implicated in regulating the development of the olfactory bulb and odor discrimination and it is highly expressed in developing rat brains, but absent in most regions of adult rat brains. Conditional gene knockout, Conditional deletion of the MAPK7gene in mouse neural stem cells impairs several pheromone-mediated behaviors, including aggression and mating in male mice. These behavior impairments were not caused by a reduction in the level of testosterone, by physical immobility, by heightened fear or anxiety or by depression. Using mouse urine as a natural pheromone-containing solution, it has been shown that the impairment was associated with defective detection of related pheromones, and with changes in their inborn preference for pheromones related to sexual and reproductive activities. Lastly, alleviation of an acute fear response because a friendly peer (or in biological language: an affiliative conspecific) tend and befriend, tends and befriends is called "social buffering". The term is in analogy to the 1985 "buffering" hypothesis in psychology, where social support has been proven to mitigate the negative health effects of alarm pheromone mediated distress. The role of a "social pheromone" is suggested by the recent discovery that olfactory signals are responsible in mediating the "social buffering" in male rats. "Social buffering" was also observed to mitigate the conditioned fear responses of honeybees. A bee colony exposed to an environment of high threat of predation did not show increased aggression and aggressive-like gene expression patterns in individual bees, but decreased aggression. That the bees did not simply habituation, habituate to threats is suggested by the fact that the disturbed colonies also decreased their foraging. Biologists have proposed in 2012 that fear pheromones evolved as molecules of "keystone significance", a term coined in analogy to keystone species. Pheromones may determine species richness, species compositions and affect rates of energy and material exchange in an community(ecology), ecological community. Thus pheromones generate structure in a food web and play critical roles in maintaining Ecosystem health, natural systems.

Fear pheromones in humans

Evidence of chemosensory alarm signals in humans has emerged slowly: Although alarm pheromones have not been physically isolated and their chemical structures have not been identified in humans so far, there is evidence for their presence. Androstadienone, for example, a steroidal, endogenous odorant, is a pheromone candidate found in human sweat, axillary hair and plasma. The closely related compound androstenone is involved in communicating dominance, aggression or competition; sex hormone influences on androstenone perception in humans showed a high testosterone level related to heightened androstenone sensitivity in men, a high testosterone level related to unhappiness in response to androstenone in men, and a high estradiol level related to disliking of androstenone in women. A German study from 2006 showed when anxiety-induced versus exercise-induced human sweat from a dozen people was pooled and offered to seven study participants, of five able to olfactorily distinguish exercise-induced sweat from room air, three could also distinguish exercise-induced sweat from anxiety induced sweat. The startle reflex, acoustic startle reflex response to a sound when sensing anxiety sweat was larger than when sensing exercise-induced sweat, as measured by electromyography analysis of the orbital muscle, which is responsible for the eyeblink component. This showed for the first time that fear chemosignals can modulate the startle reflex in humans without emotional mediation; fear chemosignals primed the recipient's "defensive behavior" prior to the subjects' conscious attention on the acoustic startle reflex level. In analogy to the social buffering of rats and honeybees in response to chemosignals, induction of empathy by "smelling anxiety" of another person has been found in humans. A study from 2013 provided brain imaging evidence that human responses to fear chemosignals may be gender-specific. Researchers collected alarm-induced sweat and exercise-induced sweat from donors extracted it, pooled it and presented it to 16 unrelated people undergoing functional brain MRI. While stress-induced sweat from males produced a comparably strong emotional response in both females and males, stress-induced sweat from females produced markedly stronger arousal in women than in men. Statistical tests pinpointed this gender-specificity to the right amygdala and strongest in the superficial nuclei. Since no significant differences were found in the olfactory bulb, the response to female fear-induced signals is likely based on processing the meaning, i.e. on the emotional level, rather than the strength of chemosensory cues from each gender, i.e. the perceptual level. An approach–avoidance conflict, approach-avoidance task was set up where volunteers seeing either an angry or a happy cartoon face on a computer screen pushed away or pulled toward them a joystick as fast as possible. Volunteers smelling androstadienone, masked with clove oil scent responded faster, especially to angry faces than those smelling clove oil only, which was interpreted as androstadienone-related activation of the fear system. A potential mechanism of action is, that androstadienone alters the "emotional face processing". Androstadienone is known to influence the activity of the fusiform gyrus which is relevant for face perception, face recognition.

Cognitive-consistency theory

cognitive dissonance, Cognitive-consistency theories assume that "when two or more simultaneously active cognitive structures are logically inconsistent, arousal is increased, which activates processes with the expected consequence of increasing consistency and decreasing arousal." In this context, it has been proposed that fear behavior is caused by an inconsistency between a preferred, or expected, situation and the actually perceived situation, and functions to remove the inconsistent stimulus from the perceptual field, for instance by fleeing or hiding, thereby resolving the inconsistency. This approach puts fear in a broader perspective, also involving
aggression Aggression is overt or covert, often harmful, social interaction with the intention of inflicting damage or other harm upon another individual. It may occur either reactively or without provocation. In humans, aggression can be caused by various ...
and curiosity. When the inconsistency between perception and expectancy is small, learning as a result of curiosity reduces inconsistency by updating expectancy to match perception. If the inconsistency is larger, fear or aggressive behavior may be employed to alter the perception in order to make it match expectancy, depending on the size of the inconsistency as well as the specific context. Aggressive behavior is assumed to alter perception by forcefully manipulating it into matching the expected situation, while in some cases thwarted escape may also trigger aggressive behavior in an attempt to remove the thwarting stimulus.


In order to improve our understanding of the neural and behavioral mechanisms of adaptive and maladaptive fear, investigators use a variety of translational animal models. These models are particularly important for research that would be too invasive for human studies. Rodents such as mice and rats are common animal models, but other species are used. Certain aspects of fear research still requires more research such as sex, gender, and age differences.


These animal models include, but are not limited to, fear conditioning, predator-based psychosocial stress, single prolonged stress, chronic stress models, inescapable foot/tail shocks, immobilization or restraint, and stress enhanced fear learning. While the stress and fear paradigms differ between the models, they tend to involve aspects such as acquisition, generalization, extinction, cognitive regulation, and reconsolidation.

Fear Conditioning

Fear conditioning, also known as Pavlovian or Classical conditioning, is a process of learning that involves pairing a neutral stimulus with an unconditional stimulus (US). A neutral stimulus is something like a bell, tone, or room that doesn't illicit a response normally where a US is a stimulus that results in a natural or unconditioned response (UR - in Pavlov's famous experiment the neutral stimulus is a bell and the US would be food with the dog's salvation being the UR. Pairing the neutral stimulus and the US results in the UR occurring not only with the US but also the neutral stimulus. When this occurs the neutral stimulus is referred to as the conditional stimulus (CS) and the response the conditional response (CR). In the fear conditioning model of Pavlovian conditioning the US is an aversive stimulus such as a shock, tone, or unpleasant odor.

Predator-based Psychosocial Stress

Predator-based psychosocial stress (PPS) involves a more naturalistic approach to fear learning. Predators such as a cat, a snake, or urine from a fox or cat are used along with other stressors such as immobilization or restraint in order to generate instinctual fear responses.

Chronic Stress Models

Chronic stress models include chronic variable stress, chronic social defeat, and chronic mild stress. These models are often used to study how long-term or prolonged stress/pain can alter fear learning and disorders.

Single Prolonged Stress

Single prolonged stress (SPS) is a fear model that is often used to study PTSD. It's paradigm involves multiple stressors such as immobilization, a force swim, and exposure to ether delivered concurrently to the subject. This is used to study non-naturalistic, uncontrollable situations that can cause a maladaptive fear responses that is seen in a lot of anxiety and traumatic based disorders.

Stress Enhanced Fear Learning

Stress enhanced fear learning (SEFL) like SPS is often used to study the maladaptive fear learning involved in PTSD and other traumatic based disorders. SEFL involves a single extreme stressor such as a large number of footshocks simulating a single traumatic stressor that somehow enhances and alters future fear learning.



A drug treatment for fear conditioning and phobias via the amygdalae is the use of glucocorticoids. In one study, glucocorticoid receptors in the central nuclei of the amygdalae were disrupted in order to better understand the mechanisms of fear and fear conditioning. The glucocorticoid receptors were inhibited using lentiviral vectors containing Cre-recombinase injected into mice. Results showed that disruption of the glucocorticoid receptors prevented conditioned fear behavior. The mice were subjected to auditory cues which caused them to freeze normally. However, a reduction of freezing was observed in the mice that had inhibited glucocorticoid receptors.


Cognitive behavioral therapy has been successful in helping people overcome their fear. Because fear is more complex than just forgetting or deleting memory, memories, an active and successful approach involves people repeatedly confronting their fears. By confronting their fears in a safe manner a person can suppress the "fear-triggering memories" or stimuli. Exposure therapy has known to have helped up to 90% of people with specific phobias to significantly decrease their fear over time. Another psychological treatment is systematic desensitization, which is a type of behavior therapy used to completely remove the fear or produce a disgusted response to this fear and replace it. The replacement that occurs will be relaxation and will occur through conditioning. Through conditioning treatments, muscle tensioning will lessen and deep breathing techniques will aid in de-tensioning.

Other treatments

There are other methods for treating or coping with one's fear, such as writing down rational thoughts regarding fears. Journal entries are a healthy method of expressing one's fears without compromising safety or causing uncertainty. Another suggestion is a fear ladder. To create a fear ladder, one must write down all of their fears and score them on a scale of one to ten. Next, the person addresses their phobia, starting with the lowest number. Finding solace in religion is another method to cope with one's fear. Having something to answer your questions regarding your fears, such as, what happens after death or if there is an afterlife, can help mitigate one's fear of death because there is no room for uncertainty as their questions are answered. Religion offers a method of being able to understand and make sense of one's fears rather than ignore them.

Inability to experience fear

People who have damage to their
amygdala The amygdala (; plural: amygdalae or amygdalas; also '; Latin from Greek language, Greek, , ', 'almond', 'tonsil') is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nucleus (neuroanatomy), nuclei located deep and lateral and medial, medially within the ...

e, which can be caused by a rare genetic disease known as Urbach–Wiethe disease, are unable to experience fear. The disease destroys both amygdalae in late childhood. Since the discovery of the disease, there have only been 400 recorded cases. This is not debilitating; however, a lack of fear can allow someone to get into a dangerous situation they otherwise would have avoided. For example, those without fear would approach a known venomous snake while those with fear intact, would typically try to avoid it.

Society and culture


The fear of the end of life and its existence is, in other words, the fear of death. The fear of death ritualized the lives of our ancestors. These rituals were designed to reduce that fear; they helped collect the cultural ideas that we now have in the present. These rituals also helped preserve the cultural ideas. The results and methods of human existence had been changing at the same time that social formation was changing. When people are faced with their own thoughts of death, they either accept that they are dying or will die because they have lived a full life or they will experience fear. A theory was developed in response to this, which is called the terror management theory. The theory states that a person's cultural worldviews (religion, values, etc.) will mitigate the terror associated with the fear of death through avoidance. To help manage their terror, they find solace in their death-denying beliefs, such as their religion. Another way people cope with their death related fears is pushing any thoughts of death into the future or by avoiding these thoughts all together through distractions. Although there are methods for one coping with the terror associated with their fear of death, not everyone suffers from these same uncertainties. People who have lived a full life, typically do not fear death because they believe that they have lived their life to the fullest.

Fear of death

Death anxiety is multidimensional; it covers "fears related to one's own death, the death of others, fear of the unknown after death, fear of obliteration, and fear of the dying process, which includes fear of a slow death and a painful death". Death anxiety is one's uncertainty to dying. However, there is a more severe form of having a fear of death, which is known as Thanatophobia, which is anxiety over death that becomes debilitating or keeps a person from living their life. The Yale philosopher Shelly Kagan examined fear of death in a 2007 Yale open courseShelly Kagan, Kagan, Shelly
Lecture 22: Fear of Death
PHIL 176: Death
. Yale Open Course 2007.
by examining the following questions: Is fear of death a reasonable appropriate response? What conditions are required and what are appropriate conditions for feeling fear of death? What is meant by fear, and how much fear is appropriate? According to Kagan for fear in general to make sense, three conditions should be met: # the object of fear needs to be "something bad" # there needs to be a non-negligible chance that the bad state of affairs will happen # there needs to be some uncertainty about the bad state of affairs The amount of fear should be appropriate to the size of "the bad". If the three conditions are not met, fear is an inappropriate emotion. He argues, that death does not meet the first two criteria, even if death is a "deprivation of good things" and even if one believes in a painful afterlife. Because death is certain, it also does not meet the third criterion, but he grants that the unpredictability of when one dies ''may'' be cause to a sense of fear. In a 2003 study of 167 women and 121 men, aged 65–87, low self-efficacy predicted fear of the unknown after death and fear of dying for women and men better than demographics, social support, and physical health. Fear of death was measured by a "Multidimensional Fear of Death Scale" which included the 8 subscales Fear of Dying, Fear of the Dead, Fear of Being Destroyed, Fear for Significant Others, Fear of the Unknown, Fear of Conscious Death, Fear for the Body After Death, and Fear of Premature Death. In hierarchical multiple regression analysis, the most potent predictors of death fears were low "spiritual health efficacy", defined as beliefs relating to one's perceived ability to generate spiritually based faith and inner strength, and low "instrumental efficacy", defined as beliefs relating to one's perceived ability to manage activities of daily living. Psychologists have tested the hypotheses that fear of death motivates religious commitment, and that assurances about an afterlife alleviate the fear; however, empirical research on this topic has been equivocal. Religiosity can be related to fear of death when the afterlife is portrayed as time of punishment. "Intrinsic religiosity", as opposed to mere "formal religious involvement", has been found to be negatively correlated with death anxiety. In a 1976 study of people of various Christian denominations, those who were most firm in their faith, who attended religious services weekly, were the least afraid of dying. The survey found a negative correlation between fear of death and "religious concern". In a 2006 study of white, Christian men and women the hypothesis was tested that traditional, church-centered religiousness and de-institutionalized spiritual seeking are ways of approaching fear of death in old age. Both religiousness and spirituality were related to positive psychosocial functioning, but only church-centered religiousness protected subjects against the fear of death.


From a theological perspective, the word ''fear'' encompasses more than simple fear. Robert B. Strimple says that fear includes the "... convergence of awe, reverence, adoration...". Some translations of the Bible, such as the New International Version, sometimes replace the word ''fear'' with ''reverence''. Fear in religion can be seen throughout the years; however, the most prominent example would be The Crusades. Pope Urban II allowed for Christian mercenary troops to be sent on a mission in order to recover the Holy Lands from the Muslims. However, the message was misinterpreted and as a result, innocent people were slaughtered. Although the Crusades were meant to stay between the Muslims and the Christians, the hate spread onto the Jewish culture. Jewish people who feared for their lives gave in to the forced conversion of Christianity because they believed this would secure their safety. Other Jewish people feared betraying their God by conceding to a conversion, and instead, secured their own fate, which was death.


Fear may be politically and culturally manipulated to persuade citizenry of ideas which would otherwise be widely rejected or dissuade citizenry from ideas which would otherwise be widely supported. In contexts of disasters, nation-states manage the fear not only to provide their citizens with an explanation about the event or blaming some minorities, but also to adjust their previous beliefs. Fear can alter how a person thinks or reacts to situations because fear has the power to inhibit one's rational way of thinking. As a result, people who do not experience fear, are able to use fear as a tool to manipulate others. People who are experiencing fear, seek preservation through safety and can be manipulated by a person who is there to provide that safety that is being sought after. "When we're afraid, a manipulator can talk us out of the truth we see right in front of us. Words become more real than reality" By this, a manipulator is able to use our fear to manipulate us out the truth and instead make us believe and trust in their truth. Politicians are notorious for using fear to manipulate the people into supporting their will through keywords and key phrases such as "it is for your safety," or "it is for the safety of this country."

Fiction and mythology

Fear is found and reflected in mythology and folklore as well as in works of fiction such as novels and films. Works of dystopian and (post)apocalyptic fiction convey the fears and anxieties of societies. The fear of End of the world (religion), the world's end is about as old as civilization itself. In a 1967 study, Frank Kermode suggests that the failure of religious prophecies led to a shift in how society apprehends this ancient mode. Scientific and critical thought supplanting religious and Mythopoeic thought, mythical thought as well as a public emancipation may be the cause of eschatology becoming replaced by more realistic scenarios. Such might constructively provoke discussion and steps to be taken to prevent depicted global catastrophic risk, catastrophes. ''The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was'' is a German fairy tale dealing with the topic of not knowing fear. Many stories also include characters who fear the antagonist of the plot. One important characteristic of historical and mythical heroes across cultures is to be fearless in the face of big and often lethal enemies.


In the world of athletics, fear is often used as a means of motivation to not fail. This situation involves using fear in a way that increases the chances of a positive outcome. In this case, the fear that is being created is initially a cognitive state to the receiver. This initial state is what generates the first response of the athlete, this response generates a possibility of fight or flight reaction by the athlete (receiver), which in turn will increase or decrease the possibility of success or failure in the certain situation for the athlete. The amount of time that the athlete has to determine this decision is small but it is still enough time for the receiver to make a determination through cognition. Even though the decision is made quickly, the decision is determined through past events that have been experienced by the athlete. The results of these past events will determine how the athlete will make his cognitive decision in the split second that he or she has. Fear of failure as described above has been studied frequently in the field of sport psychology. Many scholars have tried to determine how often fear of failure is triggered within athletes, as well as what personalities of athletes most often choose to use this type of motivation. Studies have also been conducted to determine the success rate of this method of motivation. Murray's Exploration in Personal (1938) was one of the first studies that actually identified fear of failure as an actual motive to avoid failure or to achieve success. His studies suggested that inavoidance, the need to avoid failure, was found in many college-aged men during the time of his research in 1938. This was a monumental finding in the field of psychology because it allowed other researchers to better clarify how fear of failure can actually be a determinant of creating achievement goals as well as how it could be used in the actual act of achievement. In the context of sport, a model was created by R.S. Lazarus in 1991 that uses the cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion. Another study was done in 2001 by Conroy, Poczwardowski, and Henschen that created five aversive consequences of failing that have been repeated over time. The five categories include (a) experiencing shame and embarrassment, (b) devaluing one's self-estimate, (c) having an uncertain future, (d) important others losing interest, (e) upsetting important others. These five categories can help one infer the possibility of an individual to associate failure with one of these threat categories, which will lead them to experiencing fear of failure. In summary, the two studies that were done above created a more precise definition of fear of failure, which is "a dispositional tendency to experience apprehension and anxiety in evaluative situations because individuals have learned that failure is associated with aversive consequences".

See also

* Appeal to fear * Culture of fear * Ecology of fear (concept), Ecology of fear * Hysteria * Nightmare * Night terror * Ontogenetic parade * Panic attack * Paranoia * Phobophobia * Psychological trauma * Social anxiety disorder * Social anxiety * Voodoo death * Anger


Further reading

* * * * *

External links

{{Authority control Fear, Emotions Evolutionary psychology