But it’s not just about holes! Daniel J. Glass, a psychologist at Suffolk University, told BuzzFeed News research has suggested that clustered bumps can also trigger people with trypophobia as much as clustered holes can.
“So it’s really the clustering that is the crucial factor rather than the holes,” he said.
Arnold J Wilkins, a professor from the University of Essex, told BuzzFeed News that it’s probably more accurate to say that “trypophobia refers to a disgust, rather than a fear, of certain configurations of similar objects, usually round”.
Wilkins also said that people who say they fear small holes tend to experience itchy skin, feeling nauseous, and symptoms commonly associated with anxiety, such as sweaty palms.
“Looking at all these photos that other people find disgusting, it’s easy to think, Oh, yeah…that IS gross! But why are so many people so prone to find these images gross at all?” Glass said.
“It would be much harder to get people on board with being disgusted by a picture of baby kittens,” he added.
“Most common phobias — fear of spiders, heights, dogs, snakes, the darkness – are to things that would have been dangerous to our ancestors,” Glass said.
“Individuals that readily feared these things were less likely to die before reproducing successfully, and so they passed on those genes to us,” he added.
Some evolutionists think that closely clustered objects accidentally trigger our fear of poisonous animals, which may show these cluster patterns.
“This, to me, supports the hypothesis that trypophobia is really a side effect of our evolved tendency — reinforced by learning throughout our lives — to react with disgust to unusual lesions on people’s bodies,” he added.
“If our ancestors saw someone with a cluster of bumps or holes in their skin, there was a good chance that it was caused by a parasite or other infection, and it would make good sense to be repulsed by it,” he added.
“The fact that it most often triggered, in today’s society, by images of aerated chocolate, honeycombs, and lotus-seed heads is just incidental,” Glass said.