We developed and validated a symptom scale that can be used to identify "trypophobia", in which individuals experience aversion induced by images of clusters of circular objects. The trypophobia questionnaire (TQ) was based on reports of various symptom types, but it nevertheless demonstrated a single construct, with high internal consistency and test-retest reliability. The TQ scores predicted discomfort from trypophobic images, but not neutral or unpleasant images, and did not correlate with anxiety. Using image filtering, we also reduced the excess energy at midrange spatial frequencies associated with both trypophobic and uncomfortable images. Relative to unfiltered trypophobic images, the discomfort from filtered images experienced by observers with high TQ scores was less than that experienced with control images and by observers with low TQ scores. Furthermore, we found that clusters of concave objects (holes) did not induce significantly more discomfort than clusters of convex objects (bumps), suggesting that trypophobia involves images with particular spectral profile rather than clusters of holes per se.
Keywords: Holes; Phobia; Questionnaire; Visual stress.