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Study: All humans have innate fear of things moving closer to them

The One Weird Fear All Humans Share

A new study from the University of Chicago finds that all humans have an innate sense built in that makes us fear things that are moving closer towards, rather than moving away.

In evolutionary terms, this makes sense. Early humans were nowhere near as equipped to deal with danger as we are now -- so a wild animal or a person we don't know approaching us could be a sign of potential danger.

Nowadays, we don't have to worry about that as much. But even so, that aspect of our personalities has apparently stuck around. Modern humans continue to experience what we call "approach avoidance," even when the things or people approaching us, are non-threatening.

For this study, researchers conducted eight different tests, using everything from sounds to videos of people walking towards you -- even objectively innocuous things, like letters of the English alphabet getting bigger and bigger. The goal was to see if objects that looked or sounded like they were getting closer would elicit fear within a group of test subjects.

... And they did. All of them.

This doesn't just apply to physical objects. It also extends to events that are approaching in time, or increasing in likelihood.

According to Christopher Hsee, the researcher who authored the study, "Approach avoidance is a general tendency." And for one reason or another, humans can't seem to adequately distinguish between times they should use it and times they should not.

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