You probably don’t get excited about the idea ghosts and ghouls may lurk in your home, yet horror movies and Halloween stories are likely to attract you. If humans weren’t fascinated by things that go bump in the night, the entire horror industry would go out of business, but why do sinister tales appeal to people?
You’re wired to note possible danger
Have you ever wondered what makes crowds throng around disaster areas and cars slow down so their occupants can survey car crashes along the highway?
There’s a good reason people like to ogle catastrophes. They want to avoid similar things happening to them. You’re designed to spot calamities to increase your odds of survival.
Your focus sharpens, shifting you into fight or flight when you view horror movies or listen to stories about unknown forces that wreak havoc. You prepare to face disasters vicariously in the comfort of your armchair, so, if the real McCoy knocks on your door, you have a head start and know what to do.
A chemical reaction ensues
You experience a chemical reaction when you’re horrified; a surge of energy streams through your system, readying you for action. This is why many people get addicted to risk-taking; it makes them feel more alive.
Folks become hyper-aware and enter a different state of consciousness when they bungee jump or swim with sharks. The same is true when you snuggle into your sofa with a box of popcorn to watch deranged zombies or ghosts ruining people’s lives on TV.
Contrast increases security
Although horror is stressful initially, later the contrast increases a sense of safety – providing you don’t suffer from nightmares. How nice it is, you subconsciously note, not to deal with homicidal clowns who scramble from beneath your bed and terrorize you at night. You can happily enjoy peace in your home rather than fight with the poltergeists or the unhappy spirits you see on the screen.
Horror increases human attraction
Non-couples often pair up after going through a real, or imagined, disasters together. They associate the rush of hormones experienced with the individuals beside them when frightening events occur. You might imagine the link with stress would put people off each other, but it often enhances physical attraction.
Is vicarious horror harmful?
A little displaced horror from scary movies, computer games, and stories won’t damage you. Too much, though, according to science could have a detrimental impact.
The more you carry out an action, including watching horror, the more insensitive to it you become. You experience it in a dulled-down way.
The answer, as with most things in life, is that too much probably isn’t good for you. Extreme vicarious viewing of horror movies or realistic-looking scary computer games may weaken your ability to sympathize with people or recognize the importance of calamitous events.
If you’re attracted to things that go bump in the night, you’re not alone. Plenty of people love a little horror as long as it’s make-believe. Overdo it, though, and your attraction to ghostly and gruesome goings-on can do you harm.