Why’re horror movies so intriguing? Why do spectators like to be afraid? Does watching horror movies really make you a potential serial killer, thirsty for bloody flesh, and screams? As said by Arthur Westermayr, a famous researcher and psychologist, “as long as the human thought exists, fear is viewed with contempt.” If this statement is true, then why do so many people like to be afraid?
Perhaps there is no real answer. We can’t really know why so many people experience pleasure when they’re afraid. However, in this article, we’ll still try to determine the origin of this particular emotion, often hostile and sometimes necessary.
The pleasure of controlled fear
Sociologist Margee Kerr said that overcoming a situation supposedly puts a lot of stress on our brain. It gives rise to self-confidence as well as an excellent positive feeling. A cocktail of emotions allows our minds to take advantage of adverse facts.
To those who hide their eyes, cover their ears, startle and moan for weeks on end: why do they keep watching horror movies?
The folk who swear that the poor generation of hemoglobin fanatics is doomed to reproduce the violence are also a spectator of it. Watching horror films really make us potential serial killers, thirsty for bloody flesh, and howling? Huh!
What is fear in reality?
Do we know what fear is? Psychologist explains that it is a series of emotions linked to psychological processes. These procedures signaling possible dangers, stress, as well as particularly negative situations.
In fact, it is a series of systems that activate the physiological and behavioral levels after a quick assessment of a unique situation as threatening. At first glance, our brain is already aware of the type of fear that has aroused in us.
How does fear work?
Whether the result of a real event or fictitious protection, the feeling of fear comes from the same organ brain, the amygdala. It releases different transmitters and hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol, serotonin, endorphins, etc. These chemical messengers increase the heart rate and blood pressure, accelerate breathing. All of this, to put us in an intense state of preparation. In the case of watching a horror film, it is these sensations that make us feel as if we were ourselves in the movie!
However, unlike the characters on the screen, we’re not facing a real threat. The tide of fear is thwarted by the deep sense of security, allowing them to enjoy the “rise” of hormones. It’s the same process that comes into play for thrill-seekers. Some people are looking for experiences that allow them to reach this state. This is especially the case in adolescence, which is why horror movies target the under-20s.
Nature and education
But not everyone benefits from this experience of fear. On the contrary, others hate it. And for a good reason: we’re not all constituted in the same way. Researchers have notably discovered that the variation in serotonin levels can be genetically determined. Some brains would not release enough serotonin to overcome the terror of the horror film. Negative emotions prevail, and projection appears like torture.
From fear to anxiety
After watching a horror film, some continue their lives as if nothing had happened. While others can no longer escape the horror of the film, for days or even months afterward. In the lateral safety position in their bed, the knot in their stomachs at the idea of seeing a monster out of their closet. They will bitterly regret having regretted this film. Because their fear has turned into stress. Anxiety, unlike fear anchored in the present, is based in the future. It’s the fear that something could happen.
For example, as soon as the film “Jaws” was released in 1975, the irrational fear of sharks increased. And forty years later, it is beautiful and well established. The horror film in this way can be the source of some phobias, such as blood (blood phobia), closed spaces (claustrophobia), or insects (Entomophobia).
On the other hand, the good (or bad) moments induced by the film would be just as crucial as the post-session, according to Glenn Sparks. This is called the “excitement transfer process”. According to his research, physiological excitement – an increase in heart rate, blood pressure in breathing – persists unconsciously after projection. All the emotions that you will experience afterward will be intensified and will make (or not) the desire to relive the experience.
Psychological reactions to fear
The positive or negative responses that one can have in the face of fear are understood from the psychological reactions that occur in our brain.
When faced with a fear-provoking situation, one can react in different ways; cry, attack, run. Whatever it is, our bodies will release adrenaline and raise the level of cortisol and blood sugar.
This massive discharge of our body, is it positive? In reality, if you are in a controlled environment and your mind knows from a reliable source that there is no danger, a feeling of pleasure will travel through your body, which will then consume the substances it has released without interference.
So you already know: If everything is under control, the pleasure of fear can be an additional tool to improve your mood.
Direct and immediate impacts
Indeed, watching a violent film would likely increase our desire for revenge and our aggressiveness. But this impact is only very short-lived. Moreover, it is only significantly present in individuals predisposed to violence.
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