Afraid of Needles? You May Want to Blame Your Genes

You might have your relatives to thank for some specific fears.


The genetic roots of some phobias run particularly deep. For instance, trypophobia — the fear of clusters of circular objects like coffee bubbles or the holes in a sponge — may stem from an ancient aversion to infectious diseases and parasites, according to a 2017 study in Cognition and Emotion. Researchers exposed nearly 700 people to pictures portray-ing clusters of circular shapes; about half of the participants reported having trypophobia, while the rest reported being phobia-free. Some of the photos showed a skin rash or clusters of ticks, whereas others focused on clusters of items unrelated to disease or parasites, such as drilled holes in a brick wall. Both groups of people found the disease- and parasite-related clusters unpleasant. However, only those in the trypophobia group were also averse to the other batch of images.


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