What creeps us out and why?

Knox College psychologist Frank T McAndrew was curious about the nature of creepiness so he and student Sara Koehnke surveyed 1,300 people to identify "the building blocks of creepiness."

According to McAndrew, "creepiness is anxiety aroused by the ambiguity of whether there is something to fear or not, and/or by the ambiguity of the precise nature of the threat." From Psychology Today:

In a nutshell, we confirmed the following things (I will omit the statistical mumbo-jumbo):

– Creepy people ARE more likely to be males than females

– Females ARE more likely to perceive sexual threat from creepy people

– Occupations DO differ in level of perceived creepiness: Clowns, taxidermists, sex shop owners, and funeral directors were at the top of the list.

– Unpredictability IS an important component of perceived creepiness

– A variety of non-normative physical characteristics and nonverbal behaviors contribute to perceptions of creepiness.

– Participants did not believe that most creepy people know that they are creepy, nor did they believe that creepy people necessarily have bad intentions. However, they also believed that creepy people cannot change.

– The most frequently mentioned creepy hobbies involved collecting things (dolls, insects, or body parts such as teeth, bones or fingernails were considered especially creepy); the second most frequently mentioned creepy hobby involved some variation of "watching." (e.g., taking pictures of people, watching children, pornography, even bird watching!)

"On the Nature of Creepiness" (Psychology Today, via Daily Grail)

Video above: "Creepy Doll" by Jonathan Coulton