PSC’s ‘Goose Bumps’ exhibit is heart-pounding, adrenaline-rushing fun

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Visitors react to a crawling cockroach in a live demonstration.Photo courtesy of PSC
The phenomenon of fear never ceases to fascinate people and it has been the subject of much research for many years.

With Pacific Science Center’s new exhibit, "Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear," visitors are able to explore their physical and emotional responses to some of the most common fears in society. They’ll discover why their hearts race, their knees shake and their bodies sweat when they are scared through a series of interactive challenges appropriate for all ages.

The exhibit begins with a Fear Challenge Course where guests face four common fears in a safe environment.

The first, "Fear of Animals," dares you to reach into concealed terrariums that might be the home of creepy-crawly creatures.

Next is "Fear of Electric Shock," where you are guaranteed to feel your heart pounding in anticipation of getting zapped by a jolt of electricity.

In "Fear of Loud Noises," you’ll get startled by a sudden loud noise and find out how the startle facial expression differs from that of fear.

Finally, in the "Fear of Falling" challenge, you will experience a sudden loss of support and then watch a video recording of your reaction.

Visitors can also explore the brain’s structures and pathways that drive fear response in the Fear Lab.

One activity involves setting up dominoes to represent the pathways in the brain and initiating a chain reaction to see which route triggers the fear response quickest by reaching the amygdala (a neural structure that plays an important role in the processing and expressing of emotions) first. Meet Mr. Goose Bumps, a larger-than-life figure that illustrates, through animation, how the brain and body work together in response to danger. Note the changes in his body when he gets scared.

On display are real brains and brain slices preserved through the process of plastination. They show similarities between key brain fear structures in humans and animals.

There’s also a brain coloring station that younger children will enjoy.

Another fear-themed area in the exhibit is "Faces of Emotion." Here, visitors can explore the facial expressions of fear and other emotions that may be universal in humans. Through the use of cutting-edge software, facial expressions are analyzed and identified.

"Fear in the Wild" is an immersive video game that focuses on the common responses to danger, including freeze, fight and flight.

Kids will be able to discover how fear helps all animals, including human beings, to stay alive by playing Freeze and Survival Games.

Some fears spread beyond the individual and grow stronger as more people become afraid.

In "Fear and Society," a short film and exhibit displays how people’s collective fears are represented and transmitted through media and pop culture.

Visitors can then experiment with different soundtracks and sound effects to create their own scary movies.

While we are told that a certain amount of fear is normal, some anxieties can get out of control. "Coping with Fear" shows kids what fears are common at different stages in life and also provides strategies to help them move beyond their fears.

The interviews with patients suffering from anxiety disorders are particularly interesting in understanding what happens when the fear system goes awry.

"Goose Bumps!" is a fun, hands-on exhibit that gives visitors a deeper insight into the science behind fear and allows them to experience their own reactions to fear in a safe environment.

"Goose Bumps!" runs through September 5th. For more information: (206) 443-2001 or

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