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The Evolutionary Reason We Can’t Shake Public Speaking Fear

By Amy Boone, writing for Ethos3…

The human race has made huge leaps in technology and science. We understand more than ever about the neuroplasticity of our brains. We use social media and technology to connect with strangers all over the planet. And we enjoy medical advancements that extend our life expectancy and fight back global pandemics. So why can’t we make the same progress when it comes to public speaking fear?

For nearly two decades I have watched public speakers struggle with fear.  And I am more convinced than ever that public speaking fear is tied to our evolutionary roots. So let’s see how our survival instincts and our fear of ostracism still impact our thoughts about public speaking today.

Fear of the Situation: Survival Instincts

Studies have shown that fear of public speaking might be tied to an evolutionary survival skill: belonging to a group. Biologist Dr. Glenn Croston writes, “One common defense to predation displayed by primates and other animals is to live in groups. In a group, other group members can alert each other to predators and help fight them off danger. The advantages of living in a group probably are the reason why early humans and other large primates evolved to be social, and why we are still social today.”

In other words, the fear of not being able to survive on our own is what led humans to form society. The story of fear, written into our genetic code for thousands of years, is that we must be part of a group to survive. And that if we get isolated from that group, we could die.

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