What Psychology Research Says about Why We Like Getting Scared – Illustrated
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The interest in “scary stuff” is not a new phenomenon, but our culture’s love for scary content – proven through the enduring popularity of true crime podcasts, vampire lit, and every fall’s big new horror movie – is undeniable.
It reveals an obvious truth: (some) people love getting scared! But what drives this fascination? Is it the thrill? The edge-of-your-seat suspense? What is it about scary content that draws people back time and time again?
Researchers Kerr, Siegle, and Orsini sought out to study this exact topic, which I have transformed into the simple info-doodles below:
So, why do we enjoy a good scare?
It all comes down to consent. The voluntary, consentual nature of choosing a scary movie, pausing a murder podcast, or flipping a few pages ahead in our spooky novel to find out what happens gives us a sense of control and mastery. Scary content can also prove to be a bonding point with those with whom we share the scary experience, can allow overactive amygdalas (our brain’s alarm center) the chance to pause, can help deactivate the fight or flight drive, and can create a sense of empowerment.
So, the next time you pick up a good suspense novel or press play on that new podcast episode, remember: it could be doing your mind and body some good!
THIS IS AMAZING! I am a horror lover. During the two most traumatic times of my life (becoming a parent and when I lost my dad), I have fallen deep into watching horror films. My loved ones often questioned why I'd want to watch something scary ESPECIALLY during a time of stress in my life. It was so healing for me. It gave me a break from the craziness of my life. Thank you for naming this for me!