Creepy Stuff: The Science and Psychology Behind What Scares Us

Have you ever wondered why some things make you feel scared, disgusted, or uneasy? Why do we enjoy watching horror movies, reading scary stories, or visiting haunted houses? What makes something creepy, and how does our brain react to it? In this article, we will explore the science and psychology behind what scares us, and how we can use this knowledge to overcome our fears.

What is Creepiness?

Creepiness is a subjective feeling that something is not quite right, that there is something wrong or threatening about a person, situation, or object. Creepiness is often associated with ambiguity, unpredictability, and violation of social norms. For example, we may feel creeped out by a stranger who stares at us for too long, a doll that moves by itself, or a sound that we cannot identify.

Creepiness is different from fear, which is a more intense and immediate emotion that triggers a fight-or-flight response. Fear is usually caused by a clear and present danger, such as a snake, a spider, or a knife-wielding maniac. Creepiness, on the other hand, is more subtle and uncertain, and may linger for longer. Creepiness may also lead to curiosity, fascination, or enjoyment, especially when we are in a safe and controlled environment.

Why Do We Feel Creepiness?

There are many theories and hypotheses about why we feel creepiness, but no definitive answer. One possible explanation is that creepiness is an evolutionary adaptation that helps us detect potential threats and avoid harm. By feeling creeped out by something that is unfamiliar or unpredictable, we are more alert and cautious, and ready to escape or defend ourselves if needed.

Another possible explanation is that creepiness is related to the uncanny valley effect, which is the phenomenon where human-like objects or beings that are not quite realistic or natural cause a sense of unease or revulsion. This effect may be due to a mismatch between our expectations and reality, or a conflict between our attraction and repulsion to something that resembles us. For example, we may feel creeped out by robots that look too human, zombies that are half-dead and half-alive, or clowns that have exaggerated facial features.

A third possible explanation is that creepiness is influenced by our personal and cultural factors, such as our personality, mood, beliefs, values, experiences, and preferences. What creeps one person out may not bother another person at all. For example, some people may find spiders creepy, while others may find them cute or fascinating. Some people may enjoy horror movies or haunted houses, while others may avoid them at all costs. Some people may have specific phobias or traumas that make them more sensitive to certain stimuli.

How Can We Overcome Creepiness?

Feeling creeped out by something is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be a sign of caution, curiosity, or creativity. It can also be a source of fun, thrill, or entertainment. However, if creepiness interferes with our daily life or causes us distress or anxiety, we may want to find ways to overcome it. Here are some possible strategies:

  • Understand the source of your creepiness. Try to identify what exactly makes you feel creeped out by something. Is it the appearance, the behavior, the context, the uncertainty? Is it related to your past experiences or beliefs? Is it rational or irrational? By understanding the source of your creepiness, you may be able to reduce its intensity or frequency.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts. Sometimes we may exaggerate or distort the reality of what creeps us out. We may imagine the worst-case scenarios or attribute malicious intentions to something that is harmless or benign. By challenging these negative thoughts with logic and evidence, we may be able to change our perspective and reduce our fear.
  • Expose yourself gradually. One of the most effective ways to overcome creepiness is to expose yourself to it in small doses and in a safe and controlled environment. By doing so, you may be able to desensitize yourself to what creeps you out and learn that it is not as scary as you thought. For example, if you are creeped out by spiders, you may start by looking at pictures of spiders online before moving on to seeing them in real life.
  • Seek professional help. If your creepiness is severe or persistent enough that it affects your mental health or quality of life, you may want to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who can help you cope with your feelings and address any underlying issues that may contribute to them.


Creepiness is a complex and subjective feeling that can be caused by various factors and have different effects on us. Creepiness can be a useful and enjoyable emotion, but it can also be a source of discomfort or distress. By understanding what creeps us out and how we can overcome it, we may be able to improve our well-being and enjoy life more.

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