There is something mesmerising about fire. You just stare at it and continue to stare and stare. You don’t know why, but you do it anyways. Something about it draws you in. Before you know it, several minutes have passed and you forgot what you were doing before staring into the fire. It’s something people have been doing since a young age, and continue to do until their twilight years. But, why is this? Why do people stare at fire? Why are they drawn to it? Is it just because the way the flames move is hypnotic or is there something more scientific involved?

Long story short, there is no conclusive answer to this question. There are different theories, however. Fire has more or less always been crucial to our survival as human beings. From mankind’s beginnings when it was first discovered, through the industrial revolution, until today, fire has been essential for mankind’s survival. In our earliest days, mankind was fascinated by fire. Since then, man has learned to control fire. Fire itself was used in a much larger capacity in those times (on a day-to-day basis), that is to say we saw fire itself a lot more whereas nowadays, when you cook on a stove, you see fire (barely), however it’s not the same.

From a young age, children are taught not to play with or go near fire. Fire is dangerous. This gives children a burning desire to go near and experiment with fire. After all, if a child is told not to do something, odds are that’ll make that thing way more appealing. An evolutionary anthropologist at the University of California, Daniel Fessler says “My preliminary findings indicate that humans are not universally fascinated by fire. On the contrary, this fascination is a consequence of inadequate experience with fire during development.”  

Basically, where fire is generally used in day-to-day activities, children only become interested in fire until they master their control of it. At that point there is a dropoff of interest. In modern civilization, where that is not the case, interest in fire (or anything dangerous) is very high for children. This can lead to tragic occurrences, as hundreds of deaths occur each year do to “fire play.” Curiosity of this type generally peaks at age 12. However, curiosity of a different type continues onward.

As we grow up we realize what’s safe and what’s not. We tend to live more cautious lifestyles then we did when we were 10 because we understand what can harm us. That doesn’t mean we aren’t curious. Sure, we won’t stick our hand into fire or start setting things on fire, but that doesn’t mean we won’t stare. That curiosity of something dangerous and uncontrollable remains. Something dangerous that fascinated you as a child that is still dangerous to you as an adult will likely still continue to fascinate you (granted, on a smaller scale).

When you’re sitting around a campfire and staring into the flames in front of you, mesmerized by the way they move, the colors, and the crackling sound it makes, you can’t help but wonder why. Why does it have that effect on people. Why do people just zone out, not see or hear anything else, and seem so peaceful when looking at fire? While no definitive scientific explanation exists, our human nature, curiosity, and ability to get easily distracted are all probably the culprits. But that’s just a theory. What do you think? Why do you think people are drawn to fire? Why do we stare? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.


Barak Bacharach, SkySaver Content Manager