Why Humans Experience Fear
Researchers have long been puzzled by the question of why humans experience fear. Fear is a natural human emotion that begins in the amygdala region of the brain, a part of the temporal lobe. It is responsible for assessing the threat of a situation and preparing the body to react by releasing stress hormones. Other brain regions involved in fear response include the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.
While the amygdala is a primitive part of the brain that senses fear, the cerebral cortex is responsible for our reasoning and judgment. Without the cerebral cortex, our senses of danger are compromised. Hence, we scream when we see actors in a haunted house. Luckily, the fear is not always physical. We can even relabel it as an emotional experience by imagining how the ghoul will jump out and chase us.
Our body’s response to fear is highly personalized. It relates to our genetics, and our experience of fear is unique to us. However, the biology of fear involves the same biochemical responses that we use to process positive feelings. Some people enjoy riding roller coasters, while others avoid them entirely. But the biochemical reaction to fear may be the same. So, what makes fear different from other emotions? It’s possible that the biochemical responses to fear are the same for all of us.
The amygdala is a deep part of the brain that responds to emotion. In humans, fear is a primitive instinct that allows us to maintain our survival. The amygdala calls on the hippocampus to interpret and process our feelings. The hippocampus then interprets these signals to help us avoid the danger. When a fearful situation is anticipated, it will be avoided and feared.