Friday, July 19, 2013

Was fear of public speaking ever really in the pole position?

I don’t think so. But, in a blog post on July 8th titled Fear of Public speaking Loses Pole Position, Les Hayman claimed that:

“However, most recently, the fear of public speaking, which has long held the #1 position in ‘human feardom’ in the western world, appears to have been deposed, and relegated further down the list of top-10 fears, according to most current surveys that bother to worry about what bothers humanity.

It now seems that due to ageing populations in the western world, the number one fear these days has become the actual fear of ageing, closely now followed by the fear of death.
....As well as fear of ageing and the fear of death, the fear of failure has now moved ahead of the fear of public speaking into the third position on the feardom ladder, relegating the fear of public speaking into the fourth slot.”

According to him, the top four fears now are as shown above. Mr. Hayman didn’t bother to provide links to any of those “current” surveys, or to tell us who did them, when they were done, or where they were published. Google searches using fear, survey, and the four terms ageing, death, failure and “public speaking” gave less than ten results, none of which were current surveys. 

This blog had many posts about surveys, many of which were discussed in a post last October titled Either way you look at it, public speaking really is not our greatest fear and one last July titled Is fear of public speaking the greatest fear in the entire galaxy? 

Those posts noted that fear of public speaking really never was consistently in first place, so it had not long held the “pole position.”. That claim is 100% bogus. For example, in a 1988 Roper survey it came second and snakes were first. In the very large Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) Study reported in a 1991 book it came in 8th or 9th place. In Gallup polls done both in 1998 and 2001 it was second, after snakes. 

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