F is for… Fear

The Psychologist A to Z continues.

Suggested by Cassie Graves, who is studying psychology at the University of East London. Twitter:

‘I chose fear because I love how varied our reactions can be; how our bodies react chemically and ultimately physically, how those reactions can differ from person to person, is a marvel to me.’

At a British Psychological Society supported event at last year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival, explorer Ranulph Fiennes discussed his book Fear: Our Ultimate Challenge. He claimed to see fear as a useful emotion, but panic as very much the enemy – this is when we make mistakes.

Psychologist Daniel Freeman has described paranoia – a perception of malevolent intent from another person or group – as ‘the 21st-century fear’.

In his fascinating July 2009 ‘Looking back’ article, John Waller described how fear and anguish were the common denominators of dancing plagues and possession crises of the 14th century.

A 2016 study led by Ai Koizumi and reported on our Research Digest blog suggested that neurofeedback can be used to unlearn a fear by pairing relevant non-conscious neural activity with a reward, such as money.

Fear affects our vision: a 2015 study led by Maria Lojowska and reported on the Research Digest found that when we’re afraid, we perceive some aspects of the world more clearly, but at the cost of of ignoring much of the detail.

Tweet your suggestions for any letter to @psychmag using the hashtag #PsychAtoZ or email the editor on [email protected]

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