It is a truth universally acknowledged that clowns are creepy.
Much like people who stare, close-talkers and men who rub up against you on public transport.
In general, “creepiness” is one of those ill-defined know-it-when-you-see-it (or when it brushes up against your leg) sort of traits, but a new study has confirmed specific things make certain people more likely to give you that “creeped out” feeling than others.
Yes, including that job as a clown.
“It is our belief that 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 (e.g. sexual, physical violence, contamination, etc.) that might be present,” the study’s authors Francis McAndrew and Sara Koehnke explained.
“Such uncertainty results in a paralysis as to how one should respond.”
So the cold or chill you feel when you encounter something unnerving may actually be an evolved psychological response, designed to keep you safe.
Anyone who's seen 'It' knows.
The study analysed survey responses from more than 1,300 people to figure out what scared them the most.
In news surprising no one, men were thought to be creepier than women in general, and women more often associated sexual threat with creepiness.
Particular jobs, behaviours and hobbies were also found to be universally disliked, the top 10 "creepy" jobs were as follows:
1. Clown (yeah, duh)
3. Sex Shop Owner
4. Funeral Director
5. Taxi Driver
9. Garbage Collector
"Creepy" personality traits were fairly unsurprising too, including things like standing too close, greasy hair, bulgy eyes, long fingers, laughing at odd times and, obviously, steering the conversation towards sex for no reason. All things you'd expect from an overeager dude in the bar, basically.
Just for fun researchers also asked about hobbies and found "collecting things" like dolls, insects and fingernails put people off, as did "watching".
Obviously the results are highly subjective, and at least a tad speculative, but it does make you reconsider that bird-watching habit.
Anyway if you want to avoid creeps, here's a friendly reminder not to go on Tinder: