One thing that I have always been curious about is the fear of things we have not experienced ourselves.  I come around to this often with sharks.  They are my second favorite animal, in specific the Black Tip Reef Shark, but I spent so much of my life fearing them when I’d never even stepped foot in the ocean before.  Then after I had learned about them I went to the ocean, and even though I knew just how unlikely it was that a shark would bite me I still wouldn’t go in the water, not even to my ankles.  So, I found myself wondering why I was so afraid of them, since the year 1900 there have only been thirty fatal shark attacks in the US, whereas since 2006 there were over 500 alligator attacks and seventeen of them were fatal, in the last 12 years, there have been almost have as many fatal alligator attacks in the US as fatal shark attacks in the last hundred years.

So I find myself asking the question, why do we fear what we haven’t experiences first hand?  Why are we afraid of sharks when most of us have never seen them, much less been bitten by one.  In trying to answer this question about our fears I found an article about learning to fear things and fear association which helped with a few of my questions.  However, I am wondering what any of you think about this topic or any research any of you may have done yourselves.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Why do we fear what we don’t know? by Catherine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment
  1. Anna 10 months ago

    Catherine, this is a great topic. The fear of the unknown is one that’s hard to pin down. Some of the articles I’ve briefly looked at pointed to xenophobia, but I personally don’t think that captures it fully. Sure it’s an irrational dislike and fear of something we don’t know, but I feel like that falls from ignorance. You yourself state that you know the likelihood of you being bitten let alone killed are ridiculously low, next to guaranteeing your safety, yet you still don’t wade into the ocean. Could it stem from you watching Jaws as a young child? Shark Week? Of course, no one likes to be pegged as a xenophobe since the connotation is fear towards those from other countries, while the word itself stems beyond that.

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