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Humans are born with two innate fears, rest all are learned!

by Sushree Mohanty

Humans are born with two innate fears, rest all are learned!

June 30, 2021

Are you afraid of heights? Have you ever covered your ears when the firecrackers exploded while making loud noises? Don't worry because you aren't alone. These fears are involuntary actions in nature. The foundation for most human actions is often determined by levels of Love and Fear. However, we are born with two innate fears while the rest are learned.

Psychology says that Fear is an Adaptive Behavior

While scientists are brainstorming, doing research, and studying human actions more clearly to uncover the secrets of fear, Psychology says that fear is an adaptive behavior. We know fear as behavior has a broader field of study, and there are a lot of things that we might get to discover with time. 

Scientists of the 20th century have found that humans are born with two innate fears. So what are those two innate fears humans are born with? They are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. 

Humans are born with two innate fears that are universal to all human beings regardless of where they are born, which society they belong to, or how their culture socializes them. If you’re wondering about other fears that we as an individual encounter many times, remember that those fears aren’t that significantly natural or intuitive.

However, other fears are based on our reaction, reciprocation, and experiences backed by socialization. Fears of public speaking, darkness, confrontation, failure, success, facing a camera, being perfect, or fear from animals are all learned and are adapted.

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The foundation for most human actions is often determined by levels of Love and Fear. However, we are born with two innate fears while the rest are learned.

The Fear of Falling

Have you ever experienced Bungee jumping or walked on the Pelling Glass Skywalk bridge? Being afraid of heights as a universal fear is very common.

As studies suggest, Fears are born from experiences and are also based on cultural beliefs. However, scientists have found that human beings are born with an innate fear of falling.

In 1960, scientists found these results through a small experiment. The study evaluated the depth perception among human babies and young animals. The subjects were placed on transparent plexiglass and were observed. 

Most of them were afraid to step over the “visual cliff” that seemed like beyond the edge. So, with this response from human babies and young animals, the scientists concluded that the fear of falling is innate and it is necessary for survival as well.

Fear has played a pivotal role throughout human evolution because it was the behavior or instincts that helped ancient human civilization as a survival mechanism.

A study says that if humans didn’t feel fear, their instincts wouldn’t be able to protect them. Fear can result from a response to any danger.

The Fear of Loud Noise

Have you ever covered your ears when there’s thunder or when firecrackers explode? Imagine yourself bingeing over a horror series and suddenly there’s a loud sound. You find yourself ducking down or plugging off your headphones.

Humans are born with the fear of loud noise. When there’s a sudden loud noise, we tend to cover our ears or our head. This action is truly involuntary.

When we as humans hear very loud sounds (greater than 80 decibels), most of our response would be fight or flight type. Neurophysiology calls it “acoustic startle reflex.” 

Seth Norrholm, a neuroscientist at Emory University, explained that if you hear a very loud sound – “you’re going to duck down your head. Loud noises typically mean startling. That circuitry is innate.”

Our subconscious mind also responds to loud noises. As a result, our body sets us in a fight or flight mode. Such an action has been studied in the case of newborn babies who get afraid without having prior auditory concepts. 

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Fear doesn’t need any medical treatment unless you have entered into the phobic zone that needs a little counselling or medical assistance

Fear, Phobia, and Ways to Overcome it!

Fear of anything or particularly something that isn’t that big of an issue is often justifiable because our ancestors believed that fear had helped them against harmful survival conditions. However, extreme fear turns into a phobia, when it gets worse. Phobia is considered a mental disorder that needs medical attention. 

Fear doesn’t need any medical treatment unless you have entered into the phobic zone that needs a little counselling or medical assistance. When doctors or psychologists talk about phobia, they say that phobia is the worst version of fear.

Fear is universal, and hence is natural. Keeping aside two innate fears, the rest are all adaptive; hence we can overcome those learned fears. However, one must remember that fear is nothing to be ashamed of.

Studies suggest that fears aren’t that real; they are all illusions that tend to overpower our human mind. They are responses to stimuli that are man-made. Studies show that it is possible to overcome some adaptive or learned fears with continued experience and exposure to them. 

“By constantly exposing ourselves to our fears, whether it is extreme sports, horror movies, or snakes and spiders, our tolerance for them will grow,” said Prof. Glenn Sparks, Professor of Communications at Purdue University.

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