Health

The Scientific Reason This Photo of a Strawberry Is Giving People Uncomfortable Sensations

A viral photo of an unusual looking strawberry has captured the imagination of Reddit users and drawn attention to a surprisingly common phobia.

Hairy strawberry

Reddit user 'Amoosing Cows' posted this strawberry photo on Tuesday prompting thousands of comments, many of which came from users who claim the image made them feel queasy. 

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Some users attributed these feelings of discomfort to trypophobia, a term commonly used to describe a fear of hole clusters:

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Trypophobia is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, but has gained media attention in recent years as more people, including model Kendall Jenner, have claimed to have it, or at least experience great discomfort at the sight of hole clusters.

"Trypophobia is more akin to disgust than to fear, and that the disgust is probably an overgeneralization of a reaction to possible contaminants," trypophobia researcher Arnold Wilkins told Tech Insider in August 2015. "The disgust arises from clusters of objects, and these objects are not necessarily holes, despite the name trypophobia."

In an August 2013 study about tryopophobia, Wilkins found similarities between images of clusters of holes — which can trigger trypophobia — and some of the most poisonous species around. For example, blue-ringed octopodes, which contain venom, resemble the imagery that makes people with trypophobia feel sick:

Blue-ringed octopus

“These findings suggest that there may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal,” co-author Geoff Cole said in a 2013 release, adding that he believes everyone has trypophobic tendencies. "We found that people who don’t have the phobia still rate trypophobic images as less comfortable to look at than other images.”