Did You Learn to Fear?

By Leah Brignall

Did you go into any stores this year that displayed spooky Halloween decorations? Did you see any of them that seemed scarier than the others? A few weeks ago my mom and I took my one-year-old to a Halloween costume store. When we walked through the doors, we saw several scary house decorations set up on a display. We watched as other shoppers stood in front of werewolves and zombies, waiting to see what each did. Often times the creature would pop up or shoot forward toward the person watching. Their immediate reaction was to yell, or jump back away from the perceived danger. Kids seemed to be more frightened than their parents, but the parents got scared as well!

As my mom and I walked by the display, my son’s stroller went in front of a giant fake spider. The spider jutted toward him, but he didn’t move. He just looked at the spider trying to figure out what it was. Moments later my mom walked past a pumpkin and she screamed when it popped off of the ground. It made me laugh, but it also made me think about fear.

How do we learn what is scary and what is safe? Why is it that a baby was not afraid of the decorations, but all of the older people around him were? I found this article from apa.org that describes experiments done with mice on fear transmission. When the mice saw that another mouse feared a noise, they tended to show fear as well. It also talks about an experiment that showed that if you first learn that something is not scary, you are less likely to learn that it is scary later. Take a look at the article and maybe this Halloween you will have more knowledge as to why certain costumes or decorations seem extra spooky to you!