FEARS (B2-C1 Module)

Part 2. Rational and Irrational Fears

a. Do you know anyone who has a fear of these things? Talk with a classmate and share stories.

spidersspeaking to a large audienceheights
empty housesthe number 13a monster under the bed

b. Talk with a partner or group.

  • Which of the fears above do you think is the most rational?
  • Would you class any of them as irrational?
  • What makes the difference between a rational and irrational fear?

c. Phobias: Read the text and answer the questions in the last paragraph.

We often use the word phobia for an irrational or excessive fear of a specific object or situation. There are different names for particular phobias, usually derived from Greek words: for instance, arachnophobia is a fear of spiders, and coulrophobia is a fear of clowns.

Having a phobia can make everyday life more difficult. People living with extreme aviophobia, fear of flying, can miss out on holidays with friends and family. A city dweller who develops acrophobia, fear of heights, may feel the need to move home or change jobs to avoid spending time on the 15th floor of a high-rise building.

Note the verb in that last sentence, develop. Phobias change over time: they can get better or worse, and new phobias can appear at any stage of life. But how does a phobia typically start? And is there any way to ‘cure’ a condition like arachnophobia or coulrophobia?

d. Working together with classmates, try this quiz from Factmonster.


e. Listen to the clip and answer the questions.

Dr Donna Berry, of Keele University, talks here about the causes and effects of fear.

  • What is the physical effect of fear on the body?
  • What are the two main categories of fear?
  • What does Dr Berry say about clowns?

(Warning: video contains images of clowns.)

f. Do Worksheet 2.

This 2-page worksheet has further vocabulary, listening and speaking activities based on concepts and language from the video.

g. Think, then discuss.

  • Can acquired fears be useful?

Further reading and listening:

An article on phobias: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/phobia-a-to-z

An interesting list of named phobias: https://cdn1.byjus.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Important-Phobias-List-of-Phobias.pdf

‘Phobias Workshop’ – classic comedy from The Sketch Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koNwUeG-iKE

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