Neophobia [nee-oh-foh-bee-uh] is the fear of new things or experiences. It is also called cainophobia. In psychology, neophobia is defined as the persistent and abnormal fear of anything new. In its milder form, it can manifest as the unwillingness to try new things or break from routine.

Mild manifestations are often present in young children (who want the small portion of the world that they ‘know’ to remain constant) and elderly people (who often cope using long established habits and don’t want to learn ‘new tricks’).

In biomedical research, neophobia is often associated with the study of taste. Food neophobia is an important concern in pediatric psychology; it is particularly common in toddlers and young children. However, as they grow up through adolescence and teenage years, most children generally grow out of it. Very few children continue to have food neophobia as they become adults. Those that do, can live with the phobia throughout their adult lives. A child’s risk for developing food neophobia is primarily genetic. Psychosocial factors can also increase a child’s chances of developing food neophobia. Young children carefully watch parental food preferences, and this may produce fussy or picky eating if parents tend to avoid some foods.

Neophobia is also a common finding in aging animals, although apathy could also explain, or contribute to explain, the lack of exploratory drive systematically observed in aging. Researchers argued that the lack of exploratory drive was likely due, neurophysiologically, to the dysfunction of neural pathways connected to the prefrontal cortex observed during aging.

Robert Anton Wilson theorized, in his book ‘Prometheus Rising,’ that neophobia is instinctual in people after they become parents and begin to raise children. Wilson’s views on neophobia are mostly negative, believing that it is the reason human culture and ideas do not advance as quickly as our technology. His model includes an idea from Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,’ which is that new ideas, however well-proven and evident, are implemented only when the generations who consider them ‘new’ die and are replaced by generations who consider the ideas accepted and old.

3 Comments to “Neophobia”

  1. This site seems interesting, but… what IS it exactly?

  2. Reblogged this on hvelleca book review and commented:
    Interesting point. Neophobia is like a bottleneck for old generations in understanding the new paradigms of the 21st century.

  3. It seems quite reasonable to fear new things, especially if they bring the unknown into the picture. I do believe it not unnatural to fear the unknown and it should not be considered a “dis-ease” or something abnormal, rather a smart thing to consider I have a sense psychologists and psychiatrists and allied professionals tend to create labels to normal human beings behaviours and attitudes. I question the “neophobia” stereotype
    Another need to label what is difficult to conceptualize, normal human behaviour.
    Any thoughts?

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