Monsters And Mayhem Delights: The Psychology Behind Why We Like Horror Movies
In the spirit of Halloween Month, I have started my long-standing tradition of watching horror movies. Now, I love watching horror movies, even when it’s not about Halloween. To me, the dimmed lights, a racing heart, and the ominous music accompanied by the gripping horror story are everything I can seek to have a relaxing evening, but to many others, horror movies are a big no.
Horror movie lovers understand the idea of chasing that thrill. We are the brave souls who willingly step into a haunted house, embrace the eeriness of silent graveyards, and invite fear into our leisure time. But what makes us love the macabre, have you ever wondered?
I was talking to a friend when I told her that it’s been some time since I watched a horror movie or listened to my favorite horror podcast. She couldn’t understand why I enjoy horror movies and stories so much, so I thought of researching about it. I came across some interesting studies that gave conclusive evidence of why some of us like horror movies.
So, in the spirit of Halloween month, let’s explore the psychology behind horror movie lovers and why some of us can’t help but love watching horror movies and listening to horror stories.
Reasons Why We Enjoy Horror Movies
Researchers have worked to find the answer to why people like horror movies, but there has been no single explanation for this phenomenon. Psychologists believe that a combination of various factors can be behind our love for a good scare.
It turns out that adrenaline isn’t just a thrill that we get for riding roller coasters or doing bungee jumping. Horror movies can also play a role in triggering our fight-or-flight response, causing an adrenaline rush that leaves us feeling exhilarated and seeking a thrill. Psychologists explain that watching horror movies gets our adrenaline going because we perceive a threat faster than we can figure out if the threat is real or not.
This response can cause increased respiration, racing heart rate, and goosebumps. These changes in our body can increase the oxygen in our brains and muscles. If it is about survival, then this adrenaline rush can give us the boost to figure out what to do and how to escape from the threat.
Another reason why we like horror movies is catharsis. I know, it doesn’t make sense, right? But try this; the next time you’ve had a bad day, go home and put on a horror movie. Why? Because horror movies allow us to release our emotions and anxieties in a controlled environment. In a world where we’re faced with uncertainties sometimes, horror movies let us feel like we’re in control. You can pause, rewind, and even switch off the TV if everything becomes too much. A luxury we don’t get in real life.
Another reason why horror movies draw us in is because of the curiosity they bring. I mean, you don’t get to experience horror or such real-life threats every day right? So watching horror movies can bring a novelty along that keeps our attention. Also, they allow us to experience far-fetched things like a zombie apocalypse, alien invasions, etc., in a safe and controlled environment.
A 2020 study reported that after watching a horror movie, people felt a sense of accomplishment over the threat presented in the movie. This later on led them to feel confident in their abilities to handle anxiety-inducing situations in the future.
Horror movies also stimulate physiological arousal through the fear they create. Such arousal brings a kind of euphoric high, at least in males. A study from 1991 suggested that the more distress males experienced and the more arousal they felt during horror movies, the greater their enjoyment was after the movie.
Do You Like Horror Movies?
I am a big fan of horror movies and the horror genre in general, but there have been studies that have shown some common traits in people who like horror movies. If you like horror movies then you’re open to new experiences, seek thrills, and are less prone to anxiety.
There’s also been speculation that people who rank lower in empathy also enjoy horror movies. However, this doesn’t mean that highly empathetic people cannot enjoy horror movies. The difference is that highly empathetic people often shy away from the pain and suffering horror movies portray and if you – an empathetic person – enjoy horror movies, then you watch the movies for the excitement the plot brings.
In another curious study, it was found that sex is also a factor that determines what group likes horror movies more. It is said that males enjoy horror movies and scary stories more than females. This can be because females are more likely to experience fear and anxiety than males.
Can Horror Movies be Therapeutic?
Yes, despite what others might say, horror movies can be therapeutic. Watching scary movies can reduce everyday stress. Exposure to horror movies can make real-life fears seem less daunting. This can be similar to desensitization therapy. Horror movies also often feature strong protagonists who confront and conquer their fears. This can, for many, be empowering and encouraging.
There’s also been a research study that suggests that horror movies can be used to help anxiety or trauma. A 2020 study showed that people who like horror movies have less psychological impact by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s important to note that not everyone is wired to enjoy horror movies. Some people find them too distressing or have had traumatic experiences that make them sensitive to certain themes. And that’s okay! There are plenty of other movie genres to explore, after all!
So, do you like horror movies? Well, the reason could lie in the fact that horror movies give us that adrenaline rush, sate our curiosity, and add to our desire for catharsis. These films offer a unique way to confront and conquer our fears, unwind from stressful situations, and maybe give us something that increases our confidence in tackling anxiety-inducing situations.
So whether you’re a fan of horror or just someone who enjoys a good and cheesy rom-com, cinema has a lot to offer for everyone. So, the next time, you’re in the mood for a good scare – aka all of Halloween month – pop some popcorn, dim the lights, and cuddle with your pet to enjoy a spine-tingling movie, just for some thrill and fun!
Did you find this article helpful? Let me know in the comments box below. Let me know if you’re a horror movie lover like me and which horror movie you enjoy the most!
Take Care and Have a Happy Boo!