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Clown Phobia Essay

Coulrophobia also know as clown phobia is very common in children. The University of Sheffield conducted a study in 2008 and concluded that a lot children did not like clown decorations in physicians’ office settings or hospitals. The researchers questioned more than 250 kids ages between four to 16 on what they thought about the idea of using pictures of clowns to decorate a hospital children’s ward. Dr Penny Curtis, a researcher, stated “we found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Most found the clown pictures frightening and unknowable. Why are children all around the world collectively afraid of clowns?

One theory is that the fear is based in a negative personal experience with clowns at a very young age. I believe this theory has to do with constructivism learning theory. Constructivism is a theory that explains how knowledge is constructed in a person, constructivism states that learning is an active. When information comes into contact with existing knowledge that had been developed by experiences, the person learning is an information constructor. Most people actively construct and create their own subjective representations of reality rather than acquiring it.

The critical action of creating meaning is mental; learning consists both of constructing systems of meaning and constructing meaning. Hands-on experience and physical actions are necessary for learning, particularly for small children. The fear of clowns can be quite a dramatic and overpowering fear in adults also; the fact that up to one in every seven people has it to some degree is often overlooked. Symptoms of coulrophobia are fast heartbeat, sweating, feelings of dread, nausea, screaming, crying and anger at being placed where a clown is present.

Most phobias start in childhood, but in a few, the fear persists well into adulthood. Some believe the fear of clown is sparked by reading about one and watching one in horror movies. Researchers agree that the one of the major reasons for coulrophobia or ‘clown phobia’ is the make-up and exaggerated features of the clown. The awfully exaggerated facial features can be tremendously frightening to children because of unfamiliarity. Adults suffer from this fear, because of the fear has carried over into adulthood.

In the 1970s the highly publicized murders committed by John Wayne Gacy aka The Killer Clown may have helped fuel the fear of clowns. From 1975 to 1978 John Wayne Gacy raped, sodomized and murdered 33 boys and young men in the Chicago area. During many neighborhood block parties Gacy would performed on a volunteer basis and dress up as “Pogo the clown” to entertain little children. Once convicted, Gacy spent the remainder days of his life on death row painting clowns. I believe in this case Humanism learning theory takes effect. The Humanism perspective is mostly a motivational theory.

From a humanistic perspective, motivation comes from each person’s needs, the desire to grow and subjective feelings about self. It’s human nature to be afraid of a serial killer clown. A phobia can be developed in classical conditioning when you produce a fear tactic with it. We are continuously learning whether we realize it or not. From the moment we are born our lives are being shaped into what is socially acceptable and morally right in our cultures. I don’t think that you are born with a phobia of anything. You have to have some sort of negative contact with a certain something to have it develop.

Of course you do have those people that worry over everything and just hearing about something that is scary will trigger with them the feeling of a phobia. The reason I chose coulrophobia as a single informal learning experience that someone could have, is simply because I hate clowns. I don’t believe I suffer from clown phobia, I’m not afraid of them, I just don’t like them. Personally I don’t have any experience or experiences good or bad with clowns. However I can see how the people with coulrophobia learning could have occurred through classical conditioning.

Classical Conditioning is a kind of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus. It’s the association between stimuli in the environment and involuntary reflexive behaviors such as a phobia. A phobia is an irrational fear of an object or a situation. Classical Conditioning is totally different from operant conditioning. Through operant conditioning, learning occurs through the association between behavior and a consequence for that behavior, like rewards and punishments for behavior


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