The culture of Fear

“Always do what you are afraid to do”




It is nearly impossible to crack the code of human emotions. Our emotions are deep-rooted in our physiology, but our joys and fears are also products of our environment. Talking in sociological terms, “fearfulness in varying degrees is part of the very fabric of everyday social relations”.  Director of the Survey on American Fears (Chapman University), Chris Bader gathered a group of students to join the semester long course to help provide fresh perspective on what American’s Fear. What the student researchers involved in the project didn’t know when first arrived at the first class of Sociology of Fear, is that amount of awareness, passion and even tears that are soon to come.
The survey analyzed four categories of fear:

  • personal fears,
  • natural disasters
  • paranormal fears and
  • drivers of fear behavior

The results showed that the most prominent type of fears is man-made disasters, technology, and government.

As for the top individual fears, 58% of respondents were afraid or very afraid of corrupt government officials.

  • 44.8% of Americans are afraid or very afraid of cyber terrorism.
  • 44.6% are afraid or very afraid of corporate tracking of personal info.
  • 44.4% of terrorist attacks.
  • 30% of Americans are afraid or very afraid of global warming impacting their lives.

The remaining top fears express financial and personal issues, economic collapse (39.2%), running out of money in future (37.4%)  and credit card fraud (36.9%).

According to the Chapman University’ Survey on American Fears, these fears are actually driving our actions. Fear, for example has the strongest impact on the way we vote. Those we have above average fear of government reported having voted for a particular candidate because of their fears. Even more alarming is the fact that “of those respondents who have an above average fear of the government, over 15% have purchased a gun due to fear.” 8% of people with an above average fear of the government send their children to private school instead of choosing public ones.

fear2.jpgIt’s easy to be guided by fear, since we are irrational beings, and our emotions are the most powerful forces behind our decisions. But let’s not forget that for every 58% who are afraid of government corruption, there is 42% who isn’t. For every 44.4 percent who are afraid of terrorism, there is 55.6% with no fears.

The things that scare us can be dealt with. Some of them are good chances, or maybe threats, they may be complex issues and events that require resources and emotional intelligence to challenge them. Nonetheless, we can all use creativity, curiosity and inspiration to see the light even in the darkness.

One way of dealing with irrational fear if skepticism and healthy insecurity, but the risk of using this ‘’weapons’’ is the lack of courage and trust toward innovative ideas. One must not lose hope for social progress.

Let’s not forget what Nelson Mandela told us:  “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” 

Alexandrina Bivol

Category: When I think of the problems of the world, the first thing that comes to my mind is…







One comment

  1. I like the quote by Mandela at the end. I think America seems to be politically guided by fear–people do seem to vote based on fear, to some extent. I hope we start to see more hope reflected in our policy.

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