The Unexamined Life

Why Do We Love Being Scared? Science Explains Why

Halloween is almost in full swing, and that means kids dressed in their spookiest costumes, trick-or-treats, traditional Halloween decors, and in true spooky spirit, horror movies galore; reminding us once again that we as people, love to be scared.

But is there a scientific reason as to why we welcome creepy and frightening things into our lives and go as far as to celebrate them? Or why we keep on watching the newest horror movie despite being scared witless whenever it rolls around?

Per experts, our tendency to gravitate towards scary and frightening things may be due to our “agency-detection mechanism,” which is a form of “fight or flight” reaction that can either heighten our arousal or attention, or even both. According to psychologist Frank T. McAndrew, if there’s an agent out there that can potentially do us harm, we are usually programmed to behave a certain way, even if the threat doesn’t pan out at all.

Per McAndrew, this sense of creepiness is "anxiety aroused by the ambiguity of whether there is something to fear, and/or by the ambiguity of the precise nature of the threat" .

But why do we love to get scared? Especially by horror movies?

Well, according to sociologist Margee Kerr (who specializes in fear and who was involved in the VANE study ), it’s because we see it as some type of euphoria.

"When we're in a safe place, we can interpret that threat response as we do any high arousal response like joy or happiness. The response is triggered by anything unpredictable or startling. But when we're in a safe place and we know it, it takes less than a second for us to remember we're not actually in danger. Then we switch over to enjoying it. It's a kind of euphoria. That's why you see people go right from screaming to laughing," Kerr explained.

It also gives a sense of achievement because it’s basically us stressing ourselves and then making it through. It’s also good social bonding since being scared together can form very strong memories that people can remember fondly for a long time afterwards.

horror Horror movies have the power to change your blood. Pixabay Public Domain