The Psychology Behind Why Clowns Creep Us Out

For the past few months there have been stories of creepy clowns being sighted in at least ten different states, but what is it about a clown that is so creepy? Psychologist Frank Andrew says following the notoriety of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who appeared at children’s birthday parties as “Pogo the Clown”, Hollywood exploited our deep ambivalence about clowns by placing them in many scary movies. Also, Andrew’s research shows that people more often perceive males as more creepy than females (as are most clowns), and that unpredictability, unusual patterns of eye contact, and other nonverbal behaviors set off our creepiness detectors big time. The presence of weird physical traits can also amplify any other creepy traits that a person might be exhibiting. Canadian psychologist Rami Nader believes that clown phobias are fueled by the fact that clowns wear makeup and disguises that hide their true identities and feelings. In short, it’s a number of things that make clowns creepy. (Time