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Internet Could Be Worsening Our Fear of Small Holes, Psychologists Say

When some people look at clusters of small holes, such as those seen in a lotus seed pod or honeycomb, they suddenly and inexplicably become filled with an unpleasant tingling sensation on the skin. feeling.

It turns out that the Internet could be fueling this unofficial phobia. A series of experiments has shown that online discussions about “trypophobia” (or the fear of small holes) could be partly driving this common phenomenon.

In a survey of 283 people aged 19 to 22, a team of psychologists from the University of Essex and the University of Suffolk found that a quarter of trypophobic people had never heard of the condition, suggestsThere really is some aspect of the condition that is innate.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t also an element of peer influence at play.

the team too found that respondents were more likely to be trypophobic and more sensitive to small holes if they had heard of the condition before.

Up to 64 percent said they discovered the phenomenon on the Internet or social media.


“Overall, these results suggest that although the widespread presence of trypophobia on the Internet may have contributed to the social learning aspect of the phenomenon, this cannot be the only explanation.” write the researchers.

This is not too surprising, the team adds. After all, social learning is a known component of other phobias, such as those of snakes or spiders, “in which a person becomes exposed to society’s representation and view of certain objects and/or becomes aware of the aversion experienced by a family member.

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But recent findings suggest that the frequency of trypophobia may be influenced, at least in part, by its large presence on the Internet.

(Ultra999/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Trypophobia is not yet a medically recognized condition. was first described in the scientific literature by two psychologists from the University of Essex in 2013, one of whom is also an author of the new paper. However, the name of the phenomenon seems to have emerged eight years ago in online discussions.

Since that first official newspaper, hundreds of journalistic articles have been written on the subject, and Visual memes now litter the internet..

Today, however, scientists are still broken whether or not trypophobia is a real condition, or if it is”A fear made worse by the Internet.” as some have speculated. They can’t even agree on how many people it affects.

In 2013, scientists decided on 15 percent of people, but in 2023, a large number study A study of young people in China found that trypophobia probably affects 17.6 percent of people.

Psychologist Geoff Cole, who wrote the initial 2013 paper, has now led another series of experiments at the University of Essex to better understand the disease. Unlike his previous study, Cole and his team found that trypophobia affects about 10 percent of people.

While it is true that a negative experience with an event or object can induce a phobia, it is unlikely that people with trypophobia have ever felt threatened by a group of small holes.

A lotus seed pod. (Henry So/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Instead, scientists have He suggested fear or the feeling of disgust is an evolutionary remnant. It makes us uncomfortable because the pattern resembles parasite infestations, infectious diseases, or decay, all of which can threaten human health.

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“An alternative explanation for Internet-driven trypophobia is that a person who was previously unaware of the condition may notice that they are sensitive to holes and then search for information via the Internet,” the researchers said. describe.

“The Internet then confirms what a person previously suspected.”

This doesn’t mean that social media is inducing trypophobia on its own, but it does suggest that online content is making people aware of feelings that may already exist. This, in turn, could possibly exacerbate them.

Various pasts psychology studies have found that even among 4- and 5-year-old children, trypophobic images cause distress, even before the children have had time to become familiar with the Internet.

‘Overall’, Essex researchers conclude“These data suggest that both social and non-social learning contribute to trypophobia.”

The study was published in the Quarterly magazine of experimentation.

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