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Scary Monsters

November 1, 2016

A listener wonders why we fear irrational things when there are plenty of real threats out there.



Why we fear monsters…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Dale from Tucson, Arizona, wrote to ask why we sometimes fear things like monsters and aliens instead of real threats. Well, Dale, no one really knows for sure, but one hypothesis comes from monster expert Brian McFadden of Texas Tech University. He says that when societies face threats such as an invading army or nuclear war, people tend to displace these rather overwhelming fears.

BRIAN McFADDEN (Texas Tech University):
The real things are being displaced onto things that are in stories, things that are easier contained, that you know in the end aren’t true and won’t hurt you.

He says that as cultures have adopted a more global and scientific worldview over time, our irrational fears of earth-bound mythological creatures may have shifted to extraterrestrial aliens. If you have a science question, give us a call at 1-800-whyisit. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.