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Scientists have quantified why people are afraid of clowns, and the reasons behind this common phobia might surprise you.

Writing for The Conversation, Welsh psychological researchers Sophie Scorehy, Shakiela Davies, James Greville, and Phillip Tyson described how they and their team at the University of South Wales managed to quantify coulrophobia, the scientific name given to the fear of clowns.

After creating a psychometric survey titled "The Fear of Clowns Questionnaire," the Welsh team circulated their questions to nearly 1000 people between the ages of 18 and 77, and found that more than half of the respondents "said they were scared of clowns at least to some degree."

It appears that the biggest reason for coulrophobia, per the USW team's findings that were published in the International Journal of Mental Health, comes from a perceived inability read the emotions on their faces due to their makeup, which induces "an eerie or unsettling feeling due to clowns’ makeup making them look not-quite-human."

They took these "plausible explanations" for clown phobia further as well, suggesting that "the color of clown makeup reminds us of death, infection or blood injury, and evokes disgust or avoidance," that clowns' "unpredictable" behavior freaks people out, and further that people may learn coulrophobia from family members or popular culture.

While 53.5 percent of respondents indicated that they had some fear of clowns, only five percent of the people who took the questionnaire, the researchers wrote, said they were "extremely afraid" of clowns. Interestingly, the incidence of coulrophobia seemed to increase among people who had other phobias as well, including those who said they were afraid of animals, blood or injections, and flying.

Interestingly enough, the team also "found that women are more afraid of clowns than men," and although they're not exactly sure why, a similar pattern appears to occur with other phobias as well.

"We also discovered coulrophobia decreases with age," the Welsh team wrote, "which again matches up with research into other fears."

While there were some respondents who said they'd had "a scary personal experience with a clown," that explanation had the lowest number of agreeing answers. Per the researchers, that "indicates that life experience alone is not a sufficient explanation for why people are afraid of them."

There's obviously more research that needs to be done into this bizarre and fascinating cultural phenomenon, and as with a lot of preliminary studies, these initial findings out of Wales sometimes seem to raise more questions than they answer.

Regardless, it's still fascinating to get a peek into this common and often-maligned phobia.

More on IRL clowns: Paparazzi Won't Stop Harassing Bruce Willis Even Though He Has Dementia

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