Trypophobia: fear of holes.

By Seriously Science | September 3, 2013 12:00 pm

Does looking at the image to the left make you uncomfortable? If so, you might be suffering from trypophobia, or fear of clusters of holes.  Although this phobia appears to be relatively common — it even has its own website and Facebook group – it has not been scientifically studied … until now! Here, the researchers explored the features of images that trypophobia sufferers fear most (obtained from the aforementioned website). They found that many of these images have “spectral characteristics” (features of luminosity and contrast) that resemble those of extremely poisonous animals. Based on these analyses, they conclude that trypophobia could be related to an evolutionarily ancient instinct to avoid dangerous animals. 

Fear of Holes.

“Phobias are usually described as irrational and persistent fears of certain objects or situations, and causes of such fears are difficult to identify. We describe an unusual but common phobia (trypophobia), hitherto unreported in the scientific literature, in which sufferers are averse to images of holes. We performed a spectral analysis on a variety of images that induce trypophobia and found that the stimuli had a spectral composition typically associated with uncomfortable visual images, namely, high-contrast energy at midrange spatial frequencies. Critically, we found that a range of potentially dangerous animals also possess this spectral characteristic. We argue that although sufferers are not conscious of the association, the phobia arises in part because the inducing stimuli share basic visual characteristics with dangerous organisms, characteristics that are low level and easily computed, and therefore facilitate a rapid nonconscious response.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, WTF?
  • adam

    still wondering what extremely poisonous animals have clusters of holes on them.

    • MonicaBerry

      I don’t think it’s actual holes on the animals, but spots or a mottled pattern that looks similar to these things with holes. That’s my un-Googled guess. ;)

    • Juananz

      Google “Surinam toad”. It has “holes” after it has laid its eggs, which it carries on its belly.

    • Odin Matanguihan

      Looks like some kind of hornet’s nest. Some of us would circle a few hundred meters through difficult to navigate terrain just to avoid the kind of dense vegetation that usually have such nest. I live in the Philippines, there are wasps that could kill you in 5 stings or less, and you’re bound to get more than 5 if you disturb a nest. I would suspect the fear of touching insects you don’t see (which landed on you) has the same reason. Better put up with a single sting, crushing one of those things means you better run fast or you can just pray you’ll make it to a hospital.

    • Kavira Maya

      actually, maybe spiders can pass for that. they have so many eyes, kind of look like little holes. those clusters of eyes…. *shudders*

  • RAM

    Still having that annoying feeling down the spine… aughh!!

  • ManzyPanz

    its wierd but looking at this image makes the hair stand on my arms. I want to scratch all the holes so that they are completely open. I get the same feeling when i see self applied window tint and there are all of those nasty little bubbles.. Not sure if its the same thing..

    • Carrie

      Me too! I get what you mean! I hate it so much.

  • Carrie

    WOW this is kind of a relief to read LOL
    my family makes fun of me for it. I hate using sponges. After the rain, if there are spots on the sand, I brush over them. Honeycombs. I looked it up but could never find it. I thought I was just being weird lol I had to cover that picture though, it was too much.

  • kuzefra

    I just hate Holes for giving Shia Lebeouf his start.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Keener

      Shia Lebeouf? sounds like a dessert or something!

    • mershanks

      shia lebeouf was on even stevens WAY before holes!!

    • Kavira Maya

      gosh, this was one of the best responses!

  • RustyNail88

    Could be bad for sex …

    • surgeen

      It is bad sex anyway if you just sit there watching the hole

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com William Mac Bean

    The only holes I fear are the ones my lab puppy puts in my hands with his needle sharp teeth.

  • Lee Riffee

    I guess people with this phobia would never want to watch the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine movie!

  • surgeen

    I feel creepy when I see images/objects that resemble honeycomb-like pattern. I felt that it was some kind of allergy (rather than fear) and thought mine came from being bitten by some bees that left me swollen for days when I was 8 or 9 years old. When I see a narrow hole in the ground (even a single hole), I feel fear that something dangerous (such as a venomous snake) could crawl out of that, which, IMO, has nothing to do with evolutionary memory, but everything to do with what I learnt about creatures growing up. But with honeycomb like patterns, it isn’t fear; just some kind of itchy feeling that lasts just as long as it is in my view.

  • Treena Metallic

    Ok…and I thought I was odd for not liking the holes left behind when a seed would pop out of my grapefruit (so gross)!! So now I know I have trypophobia :)

  • Rob Neff

    How about a picture of some of these “dangerous animals”?

    Wasp nests are my best guess, but I was thinking some mushrooms have that appearance as well. Or maybe we should be looking at animals from Africa and the middle east?

  • John c

    I think its less the fear of the holes, and more the fear of what you imagine might come out of them.

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