What are we so afraid of?

In this blog, IN CASE OF EMERGENCY lead mediator Aleksandra Amaladass delves into the results of our crowd-sourced catastrophic risk chart...

So, what are people afraid of?

Our last exhibition, IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, examined the threats that surround us on different scales. We looked at mitigating measures and coping mechanisms to draw attention to the instabilities that shroud our human existence, and to help people to come to terms with the gloom and doom and preparations for the worst.

The exhibition space also had a mighty wall of fears, a board where visitors could add their own risks and terrors to a growing crowd-sourced chart. 

For the fearful folk who did not dare slap a Post-it on the grid, afraid to acknowledge their fears or scared to expose them to the world, those who simply did not get a chance to express themselves and for those (like me) who are curious to know what makes us tingle and break into a sweat, we complied a little overview from the 3,129 individual inputs that came in during the course of the four-month-long exhibition.

A recurring pattern called for the creation of a few categories, which accounted for 56% of the total fears: 

  • Religion, politics, power and its social implications
  • Donald Trump
  • Death, fear of being along, losing someone
  • Failure, unhappiness, regrets
  • Humans and their negative traits
  • Technology (misuse and dependence)
  • Insects, animals and birds
  • Environmental disasters
  • Disease and sickness
  • Clowns

A large fraction of the participants voiced their concern over environmental disasters, an issue that was widely addressed in the IN CASE OF EMERGENCY exhibition. The only category that surpassed this one was religion, politics, power and their implication on society — and of course there was a significant number of Post-Its about the current American president, calling for the creation of a category of his own.

On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps clowns are worth a mention — they made up 1.1% of the categorised fears.

A huge number of inputs — amounting to 1,383 of the total — were personal and quite specific.

Some were quirky: "too much Tupperware, not enough lids", or "a banana strolling around" or "people dabbing uncontrollably".

We also noticed references to pittakionophobia (a fear of stickers) and misophonia (hating sounds like eating, chewing and loud breathing). Still others posing deep questions: "the end of Moore’s Law", "gravity being disproved" and "being in a simulation".


In the course of the research, the same question kept coming up: when does a strong dislike turn into a fear? Would you say you dislike your "beans touching scrambled eggs" or does the bean-hugging-eggs scenario make your guts twist with fear?

If it does, take a deep breath, do what is under your control and hope for the best. While you’re at that, throw in a bit of humour — like one of the fears on the Post-it called out: "Too much month at the end of money". That's one fear we can all relate to. 

This blog was written by Aleksandra Amaladass, lead mediator at IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Aleksandra is a bioscientist who enjoys science communication and is on the road to becoming a nutritional therapist.

What’s On