Achluophobia: fear of darkness or fear of our own expectations?

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*I wrote this last week, but was unable to upload it.

Achluophobia is a morbid fear of darkness. But if we really fear the dark, why is it that we watch movies in a dark room? Why is it that we eat with a dim light on to have a romantic atmosphere? And why is it that we sleep with the lights off?

I began to wonder about the cause of this fear. Perhaps we are not scared of the darkness itself, but the possible or imagined thoughts that are created by darkness. Although there is no one reason why people are scared of the dark, I thought that pareidolia could be one plausible cause of this phobia.

Our brains tend to make order out of disorder and find sense in nonsense. And this tendency to seek out patterns can sometimes lead us to experience pareidolia, seeing meaningful images in meaningless objects or visual stimuli.

Most of us probably have experienced a time when we woke up in the middle of the night to get a cup of water and were surprised by the ghost-looking object sitting on our chairs, only to find out that ghost was actually a jacket hanging on the chair. That is exactly what pareidolia is.

I had considered pareidolia to be the only cause of achluophobia. But I remembered from my reading that almost all actions are multiply determined. Thus, I began to look for more possible causes of achluophoiba and came across reading about top-down and bottom-up processing. These two important concepts basically explained how we perceive an object. In bottom-up processing, we construct a whole from its parts while in top-down processing, we construct whole from our expectations. So then, I concluded that, maybe it isn't just our brains' tendency to seek out order out of disorder, but also our expectations of scary things and objects that cause us to experience pareidolia, which ultimately leads us to have a fear of darkness.

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This page contains a single entry by yang2711 published on October 9, 2011 4:50 PM.

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