Fears Research

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

Research About Fear
compiled by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

Here are three studies about particular causes of fear, and one study about a mechanical method of treating fear.

Dilemmas in Treating Fear in Self-Identifying Vampires
“Do We Always Practice What We Preach? Real Vampires’ Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals,” D.J. Williams and Emily E. Prior, Critical Social Work,
vol. 16, no. 1, 2015, pp. 79-92. (Thanks to Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Idaho State University, the College of the Canyons, and the Center for Positive Sexuality,

Nobody knows an exact number, but there are many people worldwide who self-identify as vampires. Despite the use of the word “vampire,” people with such alternative identities do not seem to be psychologically and socially unstable. Even still, it is not surprising that vampires prefer to keep these alternative identities private (i.e., stay “in the coffin”) due to fears of being misunderstood and discriminated against....

The first author of this study has worked specifically with self-identified vampires for over five years, and both authors have considerable experience working amicably with multiple alternative communities.... Approval to conduct the study was granted through a university institutional review board (IRB). Well-established and personally known contacts, who are vampire leaders in Atlanta, Georgia, were asked to select 11 adult participants through purposive sampling. In an effort to ensure self-identities were chronic and stable, participants were included if they self-identified as vampires for several years.

What Ostomists Fear: Flatus and Smelliness
“Flatus, Odour and the Ostomist: Coping Strategies and Interventions,” J. Williams, British Journal of Nursing, vol. 17, no. 2, January 24-February 13, 2008, p. S10, and S12-4. The author, at Burdett Institute of Gastrointestinal Nursing in partnership with King’s College, London, and St. Mark’s Hospital, Harrow, explains:

Both new and established ostomists fear the loss of control over their bodily function that stoma surgery brings about.... Quality-of-life studies often highlight flatus and odour to be two of the top five fears or worries among ostomists. This article reviews the current literature offering an insight into how flatus and odour impacts on an ostomist’s life and considers interventions to assist the nurse in aiding the ostomist through this period of adaptation.

The Dentist or the Snake
“Symptom Provocation in Dental Anxiety Using Cross-Phobic Video Stimulation,” Ulrike Lueken, Jurgen Hoyer, Jens Siegert, Andrew T. Gloster, and Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, European Journal of Oral Science, vol. 119, no. 1, February 2011, pp. 61-68. (Thanks to Gerald Warren for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, report:

Although video stimulation has been successfully employed in dental phobia, conclusions regarding the specificity of reactions are limited. A novel, videobased paradigm using cross-phobic video stimulation was validated based on subjective and autonomic responses. Forty subjects were stratified according to dental anxiety as measured by the Dental Fear Survey (DFS) using a median split procedure (high-DFS and low-DFS groups). Anxiety stimuli comprised dental-anxiety scenes and non-dental-anxiety control scenes (snake stimuli). Neutral scenes were tailored to each anxiety stimulus. Dental, but not snake, stimuli were rated as more anxiety provoking only in the high-DFS group.

Emboldening Melodies
“Fear Shrinks with ‘Walkman’ Music,” [Article in German], B. Gierl, Zahnarztliche Mitteilungen, vol. 72, no. 16, August 16, 1982, pp. 1769-1770.


This article is republished with permission from the May-June 2017 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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