Why Horror Movies Can Feel Comforting, According To Experts
A study published in the Journal of Media Psychology found that people watch scary movies for three main reasons: tension, relevance, and unrealism. For some, watching scary movies can be an entire experience due to the mystery and the shock. Others who are drawn to it due to "relevance," find elements in the movie that they can relate to. Those who like horror due to its "unrealism" enjoy it because they know for a fact that it's all fake anyway. For them, it's just pure entertainment and fun. "There are different experiences people have while watching horror movies," Dr. Katherine Brownlowe, an assistant professor in the departments of neurology and psychiatry at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, tells Bustle. "Some people enjoy the gore, some people like being startled, and some people love the sheer escapism it offers." How scary movies make you feel is a big reason why people keep going back for more. According to Dr. Brownlowe, there are several psychological benefits to watching horror films. 1. People Like The Feeling They Get When They're Scared Shutterstock Some people react differently to things that are scary. For instance, a 2010 study published in the journal Communication Research found that people who like horror movies tend to enjoy feeling really intense emotions like fear. When you're scared, your brain's immediate response is to go into fight-or-flight mode. When this happens, your entire body can react. For instance, your heart may race and your muscles may tense. It can even cause you to scream or jump. "When we watch a horror movie, it stimulates the brain and the brain responds with the physical and emotional sensations we call fear," Brownlowe says. "Believe it or not, for some people, this is a lot of fun." At the same, it also feels good to go into an experience that seems scary or "risky" and then come out safe and OK. As Brownlowe says, "It challenges our beliefs about risk. In some ways, it can 're-set the thermostat' for people so that things that had seemed intimidating may be easier to deal with in the future." For instance, some people may find that after watching an hours long Halloween scare-fest, it’s not as scary to ask their boss for a raise, face a budget shortfall, or prepare to give a public speech. Everyone experiences things differently. If you're more sensitive and you feel things very deeply, watching scary movies may be a little too much for you. But if you're not, they can be really fun and sometimes even comforting.