There’s a reason why movies about aliens and zombies leave many of us scared to sleep at night, said an evolutionary psychologist.
“Fear seems to be an adaptive response to things that, historically, posed a danger to us,” said Mark Schaller, a professor at the University of British Columbia.
That’s not to say that our ancestors faced aliens and zombies, exactly, but these fictional threats share key features with threats our ancestors did encounter, such as snakes, sickness, and predatory people.
This is why we are most afraid of incarnations of predators or disease – basically “somebody or something that looks like it might have the capacity to do you harm,” Schaller said.
“There’s probably a reason people carve pumpkins to look angry-looking.”
Skeletons, spastic movements, and ghostly pallor can all freak us out, not to mention blood and other bodily effluences, because they all signify disease.
“Alien is a classic because it taps into both these kinds of fears.
Big jaws, big teeth, big claws are the classic things that can kill you in predators.”
Alien also has glistening skin, like reptiles and sick people, so it packs a double whammy in the fear department.