Automatonophobia can be roughly defined as the fear of wax figures, humanoid robots, audio animations, or other characters designed to represent humans. This kind of fear rarely turns into a full-fledged phobia, but when faced with these characters, one usually feels hesitant or nervous.
It is not clear what exactly causes this phobia. This may be partly due to our innate expectations of human behavior. We tend to distrust people who stare blankly, remain silent, or behave in ways that we think are not “normal”. Whether programmed to move or just stand quietly, automata look but do not look like humans.
In addition, the level of craftsmanship may vary from person to person. Today, most of them look lifelike, but a closer look will reveal that they are a bit “outrageous”. Smooth, perfect skin, hollow eyes and other qualities are shared by automata, but they do not perfectly represent the human body.
The designers of these characters certainly know the limitations of their work. Therefore, many characters are placed in the display, where the lighting is designed to minimize inspection. This may involve dim lights, spotlights, and other effects that may be considered creepy, further adding to the sense of fear.
Automata phobia is generally thought to be related to mask phobia or fear of masks. Pedophilia or the fear of dolls are also a subset of autophobia. These fears are believed to have similar causes and origins.
Role in popular culture
Many books, TV shows, and movies take advantage of this fear.Perhaps the most famous example is the original Vincent Price version Wax museum. This 1953 movie was originally presented in 3D to enhance the effect, focusing on a crazy wax sculptor turning into a serial killer.
The sculptor was severely disfigured in the fire and retaliated by murdering others and turning them into wax figures in his museum. The film was remade in 2005, and the plot is very different.
This fear can be expressed in many ways. Some people are only afraid of wax figures, some people are afraid of dolls. Some people cannot visit theme parks or local attractions, which often use mobile humanoid figures called audio animatronics in their displays.
If you have autophobia, you may experience tremors, crying, palpitations, and other physical reactions when you face the person you fear. You may not be able to enter a display that contains automata. If you encounter it by accident, you may run away, stay still, or even hide.
Automata is considered a sign of new technology and are proudly displayed in various places, from museums to theme parks and even carnivals. Over time, you may find yourself avoiding more and more locations for fear of encountering automata. This can lead to social isolation and, in extreme cases, even agoraphobia.
Automatonophobia is easily treated with proper treatment. The exact course of treatment will depend on your specific symptoms, severity, and their impact on your life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most commonly used therapy, and it will help you learn to replace negative thoughts about automata with more rational information. You may experience systemic desensitization, gradually being exposed to the object of your fear. You may also learn relaxation exercises to use during anxiety attacks.
When seeking treatment for autophobia or any phobia, be sure to choose a therapist you trust.