When Apple released its new iPhone 11 Pro last night, photos of the gadget’s triple-lens system immediately began unsettling people who suffer from trypophobia – the fear of small holes.
This condition is triggered by seeing certain arrangements of holes and is known to cause profound reactions in some sufferers – whilst bemusing people who aren’t affected.
To understand trypophobia, we spoke to Dr Geoff Cole, a psychology lecturer at the University of Essex, who published the first study exploring the condition in 2013.
He confirmed that the iPhone 11 Pro could cause a trypophobic response in some people due to the mathematical structure of the holes
‘It could well cause trypophobia,’ he said.
‘The camera has the critical features necessary to cause a response because it’s made up of a cluster of holes.
‘Anything can induce trypophobia, as long as it has this pattern.
‘It could be anything from aerated chocolate [like an Aero], lotus seed pods or even the brake lights on a Peugot 206.’
Dr Cole believes that most people suffer from the condition, although its severity is a ‘matter of degree’ which means fear of small holes affects some more than others.
‘I think everyone is a bit sensitive,’ he added.
Before Dr Cole’s paper in 2013, few people had heard of trypophobia.
But in the age of the internet, the phobia has become something of a meme, with high profile sufferers said to include the YouTuber PewDiePie.
We asked the psychologist if there was a contagion effect that is causing the reaction in people.
He told us that many phobias are actually induced by the reactions of others, meaning the fear of small holes is just like many other irrational terrors such as fear or rats, cockroaches or other natural nasties.
‘There is a lot of scepticism and people say it’s just a successful internet meme, rather than a real phobia,’ he continued.
‘People look at it as a bit of a joke and think people caught trypophobia through a meme.
‘But that’s the same for most phobias. People are not born fearful of rats, spiders or cockroaches, but might see their mother or father’s fear whilst they are a developing child and effectively catch the phobia.
‘Take cockroaches, for instance. Many people who are scared of them have not had a bad experience.
‘They’ve picked it up from society and weren’t born to dislike them.
‘If trypophobia is a good internet meme – then the fear of cockroaches is a good society meme.’
We also asked what could happen to people who suffer from an extreme trypophobic reaction.
Dr Cole replied: ‘People say things like: “I saw a bad image and had to sit down. Now I can’t go to work for a couple of days.”
‘Others get itchy skin, raised heart rate or start sweating and feeling anxious.
‘Looking at certain things is bad for you. We see this in photosensitive epilepsy or when stripey patterns induce migraines.
‘If you look at trypophobia in that context it’s not so bizarre.’
It’s believed that patterns of holes which trigger trypophobia have a mathematical structure similar to the arrangement of colours or markings on a predator or poisonous animals and plants.
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