Involuntary protection against dermatosis: A preliminary observation on trypophobia

BMC Res Notes. 2017 Dec 1;10(1):658. doi: 10.1186/s13104-017-2953-6.


Objective: Trypophobia refers to the intense negative emotions evoked by exposure to repeated visual patterns like a honeycomb. We propose a cognitive mechanism that can explain why such negative emotions are triggered by trypophobic objects, primarily through automatic and involuntary avoidance of skin diseases, which is also called as the Involuntary Protection Against Dermatosis (IPAD) hypothesis.

Results: We asked 856 participants to evaluate the discomfort evoked by trypophobic images and to report their past and current skin-related medical problems. Results showed that participants with a history of skin problems rated the pictures as evoking high discomfort as compared to those without skin problems. We conducted another survey to replicate the original survey using additional 690 participants, which confirmed the reliability of the current findings. The current study presents preliminary observational data that supports the IPAD hypothesis and suggests ways to reduce maladaptive emotional reactions toward trypophobic objects.

Keywords: Cognition; Discomfort; Disgust; Embodiment; Emotion.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Skin Diseases / psychology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Phobia, Specific