Why Humans Experience Fear

Why Humans Experience Fear

Several factors have been identified as key factors in the development of fear. These factors differ from those of reflexes and fixed action patterns. For instance, fear reactions are instantaneous, so deliberation only increases the likelihood of death. As such, fear reactions are phylogenetically programmed responses. While animal predators do not allow trial-and-error behavior acquisition or novel planning, humans experience fear only when we are threatened.

The brain’s amygdala is responsible for sensing fear. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and judgment. If this part is impaired, we’d find it difficult to make rational decisions and think clearly. That’s why fearful people scream at actors in haunted houses. Moreover, fear can affect our ability to make good decisions. If you’ve ever watched a horror movie, you probably know exactly what a frightening scene feels like.

The brain is specialized for different types of fear. In rodents, the superior colliculus circuit mediates fear behaviors in response to aerial predators. In humans, the ventromedial hypothalamus regulates fear responses triggered by sounds and odors. In addition, the brainstem’s nuclei may also be involved in the action component of fear. These findings have a significant impact on our understanding of the human mind.

Many phobias are triggered by situations that are unsafe. For example, a girl who has a fear of thunderstorms might not attend school if the weather forecast calls for a storm. Conversely, a guy with a social phobia may avoid speaking to his classmates in the lunchroom because of intense fear. Both these extreme fears can be exhausting, frustrating, and embarrassing. To overcome these fears, it’s important to recognize why they exist and understand why we experience them.