Why do we love being scared?

We’ve all been there. You’re home alone, curtains drawn, all the doors are locked (checked twice). The wind is howling outside, and the rain lightly taps at our windows. But other than that, silence. All we really need now is a blanket and a movie – a horror movie.

So, it’s October which means Oktoberfest! And of course, O’ Hollows Eve. As university students, a lot of us have outgrown the suppliant act of ‘Trick-or-treating’. Most of us. For those of us that aren’t heading out to become blackout drunk this year, which let’s face it can make for its own horror stories, Netflix and Thrill is the way to go.

As I was sat thinking about what freaky films I’ll be punishing myself with this year, I started to wonder, ‘Why do I do this to myself?’ and by extension, why do we as a human beings like to be scared? Whether it be riding roller-coasters, partaking in extreme sports (Fiction on a Friday), or simply watching a horror flick, what is the appeal?


Now, I’ve heard some argue that it is down to a natural ‘curiosity’ of the unknown and the grotesque – but why don’t foxes ever stick around when the farmer approaches the chicken coop? Probably because they understand that fear is a survival mechanism. So, why do a lot of us actively search for thrills? Now, there are explanations believe it or not.

Margee Kerr, Ph.D., sociologist, and author of “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear” spoke about this very subject in an interview with Healthline.com. She told the interviewer that, ‘When we’re afraid our bodies release different chemicals that can contribute to feeling good under the right circumstances’. What does this mean? I’ll break it down for you. Just like with the fox example above, our body reacts to certain stimulus in certain ways. Here, we’re are experiencing Fight or Flight which I am very sure a lot of you have heard of before. However, and here comes the interesting bit, when we know that we are in a safe environment (sofa, blankets, snacks) and so our brain hijacks this experience! This is like a high arousal state, not sexual, but like when we’re happy or surprised. Those chemical signatures look the same when we’re scared; it’s just in a different context.


And that, to quote an obscure Gerard Butler film, is the Ugly Truth. Ok, there isn’t anything ugly about it, but it is the truth, as far as I can tell!

What do you think? Do you enjoy being scared or do you avoid it like the plague? Let me know, and why, by getting in touch on twitter: @ThatGuy_Alex.


By Alexander John Udraufski-Osborne.


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