The Fear Factor

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04jack-o-lanterns-snow.jpgGhosts, Zombies and Monsters oh my! It's that time of the year again! People draped in white cloths run around screaming "boo!", while hairy spiders and bats hang from the front porches of neighbors. The month of October is a festivity of scares. People flock to haunted hayrides, houses and even amusement parks to indulge in this month's horrors. Highly anticipated scary movies are even released in order to rev up that "Halloween" vibe to audience members. But what is it about Halloween that society loves so much? Last I checked, zombies and creatures are highly unappealing- but they are scary. So what is it about fear that attracts such attention? As much as people scream and run away, they still return each year to these haunted attractions. What is it about fear that keeps us coming back for more?

"Fear is a chain reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing and energized muscles, among other things, also known as the fight-or-flight response." (Layton,HowFearWorks). So the moment a man with a chainsaw pops out of the woods, your body reacts with the "fight-or-flight" response. In Psychology, I learned that this behavioral action is normally the side effect when one is scared or feels that their life is in peril. In result, they react by either defending themselves or fleeing from the situation altogether. If you've watched any "funny" videos that include someone being scared then punching the scarer in the face-that is their body's fight-or-flight response. 

The sensation of fear invokes a racing heart, tensed muscles and rapid breathing. We all have experienced these reactions when scared and even some of us go out of our way to feel these reactions (i.e: visit haunted attractions, watch scary movies, etc). Why is that? What is it about the feeling of fear that attracts people towards it? Margaret Burr proclaims that it has much to do with the feeling of triumph and victory. "Leaving the theater, or turning off the VCR after we have been thoroughly terrified by a film director's imagery, we connect - just a bit- with our ancestors who had to overcome nature's savagery. We - like they- get to feel victorious, triumphant, and, perhaps, most importantly, sorely tested." (Burr,Queendom). Burr parallels this attraction to fear with people's attraction to endurance tests, risky finances, and even unstable relationships. People love the feeling of overcoming these challenges, therefore seek them in multiple aptitudes. 

So next time you are perplexed by your friend's desire to go see a horror film, remember what it is they are seeking. People love an adrenaline rush, and that is what they experience when terrified in a movie theater. I, myself, am a horror film junky and LOVE the feeling of being scared! Now I know that it is because I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of fear just how people enjoy roller coasters.

Fear, in some cases, can be a contradiction because instead of running away from it, some people run towards it. It all depends on your personality- but as for myself, you'll see me running around on Halloween thriving in the scares it provides. 

  1. Layton, Julia. "How Fear Works." HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
  2. Burr, Margaret. "Why Do People like Being Scared?" Why Do People like Being Scared?N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
  3. Cherry, Kendra. "What Is the Fight-or-Flight Response?" Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

1 Comment

Dr. Cantor agrees that these scary movies are for the adrenaline rush. About ten percent of the population is hardwired to enjoy adrenaline rushes, such as scary movies or riding a roller coaster, but that number seems very low. A scary movie can have a full theater that oversteps the prediction of ten percent of the population. Additionally, I hate scary movies but love roller coasters. So though I love the adrenaline rush of a ride, I refuse to watch scary movies, so I don't know how true this number is.

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