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1) Do Great White Sharks purposefully attack people?

2) Why are people so afraid of a shark that looks so fake in the movie?

3) Is there a possibility of overtaking fear in your mind?

4) How exactly does fear work in the human mind?

5) What is your current job and what do you have your credentials in?

Answer 1:

Great white sharks do occasionally attack humans, but it doesn't happen very often. Sharks usually eat animals like seals, which have lots of energy-rich blubber (fat). As you have probably figured out, humans are not the natural prey of sharks, and our lack of blubber doesn't make us very attractive on their menu. But a shark may be especially hungry, or it may mistake a human for one of its normal prey animals. If a shark is unsure or curious, the only way it has of exploring a potential prey item is to bite it. There is no way to tell for sure why a specific shark attacks a person at a specific time, but considering the number of people who could be eaten, and the rarity of shark attacks, great white sharks do not seem to be targeting us.


Answer 2:

2) Why are people so afraid of a shark that looks so fake in the movie?
I'm not an expert in why some movies are effectively scary, but here's what I can guess: scary movies, such as Jaws or other shark movies, are very effective at including cues that make us very afraid. Jaws, for example, includes a lot of suspense and sudden attacks. This puts the viewer in a state of stress as they brace themselves for the next scary moment. The fact that the shark isn't that realistic isn't that important at that point, since all of the other cues in the movie make people feel afraid.

3) Is there a possibility of overtaking fear in your mind?
Yes, people can get better at managing fear. For example, people with phobias, a pathological, irrational fear of something, tend to be highly responsive to therapy. One common type of therapy for people with phobias is exposure therapy, in which people are exposed to the object of their fear. Usually this therapy begins with a small exposure (i.e., just a thought or image of the thing) and increases. By the end, people with a phobia of snakes may even hold a snake with little or no fear!

4) How exactly does fear work in the human mind?
Fear is usually associated with a pair of almond- shaped structures in the brain called the amygdalae. The amygdalae have a lot of connections with the part of your brain associated with memory. In general we're very good at building connections between objects or situations and fear following a negative experience. For example, if someone shakes your hand with an electric shock toy hidden in their palm, you're like to remember not to shake their hand again-- even years later! You'll remember this better than you would a memory that isn't associated with fear. We also seem to have a lot of instinctive fears that probably helped us survive in our evolutionary history, such as a fear of snakes or disease.

5) What is your current job and what do you have your credentials in?
I am a graduate student studying for a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.



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