The sight of coral, honeycombs or lotus blossoms don't send you into a panic? Then you must not be a trypophobe, or one who suffers from the fear of clusters of holes. Trypophobia is what one scientist calls “the most common phobia you've never heard of.” Even Outliers has to confess we hadn't heard of it.
Although the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn't officially recognize trypophobia, that hasn't stopped some scientists from researching the unusual fear. And research published this month from the University of Essex's Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins sheds some additional light on why such a pattern would freak somebody out.
Cole and Wilkins examined 76 objects associated with trypophobia along with 76 images of objects with holes that aren't usually associated with the fear. They found that the trypophobia objects have visual features similar to those of poisonous animals, such as a king cobra or blue-ringed octopus, which may explain why trypophobes have such strong reactions to objects most people wouldn't find bothersome.
In research just published in the journal Psychological Science, the men speculate that trypophobia may have an evolutionary basis: Clusters of holes bear a resemblance to patterns found on animals that humans have learned to avoid as part of survival.
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