Fear of the Unknown


Sometimes I sit and think about things that I don’t know. I realise that this is a fairly broad and comprehensive subject. There are a lot of things that I don’t know. I don’t know anything astrophysics, I don’t know how to hack into anything at all, and I definitely do not know the science behind time travel. There are a limitless number of things that I do not know. One of the joys I have had when writing these pieces is that I learn something new whenever I begin my research. For some people, however, there is a fear of the things that we do not know or maybe of the things that we do not understand. I confess that sometimes, not knowing the possible outcome of a situation scare me and I have always wondered why.

I suppose the most logical place to turn for a solution to this problem would be to look into the psychology behind it. Well, turns out, I’m not the only one who is interested in the answer to this question. There have been studies conducted to try and determine the effect that uncertainty can have on a person. Researchers in these studies would measure stress by looking at typical stress responses while the participants would be hooked up to electrodes that could provide small but painful electric shocks. Participants in their studies showed greater levels of stress when there was a fifty percent chance of receiving the electrical shock than when there was a one hundred percent chance of receiving the shock. This shows that we are more afraid of the possibility of pain than we are of the actual pain itself. Despite the fact that the uncertain situation has a chance of a positive outcome, we are still less afraid when we are certain of a negative than when there is a chance of a negative.

So do we actually know why this is? Well there is some evidence to suggest that it has something to do with brain activity. During times of uncertainty, there appears to be heightened levels of activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, the area responsible for processing fearful and threatening stimuli, which may cause a state of hypervigilance, an awareness of possible risk perhaps even an over awareness. It also activates the anterior insula, which may be why we see situations of potential risk as more dangerous as it may inflate the problem in our minds. There is a chance that this happens because of survival instincts that we did not evolve out of in our line of evolution.

It is okay to scared. Its something that is normal for people to experience and with every fear that we have, we just have one more hurdle to overcome. Perhaps fear is just our own bodies trying to challenge us to something entirely new. Though this is likely not the case, fighting our fears is something that we must do to continue on in this world, with one foot forward and both hands pushing to open the door.


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