Why are we afraid of the dark… and should we be?
Some experts believe that fear of darkness is genetically coded in humans. That is, our ancestors were afraid of the dark because they were afraid of nocturnal predators. Being on high alert and triggering our fear response would then provide humans a survival advantage.
Is there any truth behind this claim though? In a study of lion attacks on 474 human in Tanzania from 1988 to 2009, 60% were attacked between 6:00PM and 9:45PM. Most of the attacks occurred during the span of darkness between sunset and moon rise (ie: the darkest period of the night), a period of time that lengthens following the full moon. Additionally, hourly attack rates were 2-4 times higher in the first 10 days after the full moon than during the 10 days before it.
What about other locations where there’s no lions or bears that threaten to attack us – only crime? The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey collects data on violent crimes and the time of occurrence as reported by victims. The data is fuzzy – though many people are afraid of the dark, crime statistics do not show that this fear is entirely justified since the distribution is fairly even across the span of a whole day (with the exception of a significant drop just before 6AM.
Check out the infographic below, and you be the judge…