Although it may seem contradictory, watching horror movies can help people better cope psychologically with trauma situations. This is affirmed by research that links the experience of watching these kinds of films with the fears and traumas we have in real life. How?
The psychological damage brought by the COVID-19 pandemic is innumerable. Although not everyone lives the experience of social isolation and locking up in the same way, it is clear that, in one way or another, the changes of the new normality have affected us all.
But how to survive the pandemic and preserve sanity? Apparently, there is a link between the way people go through difficult times and their consumption of horror movies. It seems like a random relationship, but several studies have indicated that horror movie fans have their psyche more under control in circumstances of emotional vulnerability.
Experiences of experimentally controlled fear, such as watching horror movies, “may have positive effects in terms of fine-tuning coping strategies” Mathias Clasen, director of the Recreational Fear Laboratory and associate professor of literature and science at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, told National Geographic magazine.
Clasen, the author of Why Horror Seduces (2017), argues that watching scary movies allows people to “learn about their own fear responses and about regulating their own emotions through watching horror movies”, even when the situations of the horror fiction have nothing in common with the circumstances that the viewer is going through in his or her life.
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Together with other researchers, Clasen conducted a study that included 310 participants to evaluate how the consumption of horror films influenced the psyche experiences of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What effects do horror movies have?
Titled “Pandemic practice: Horror fans and morbidly curious individuals are more psychologically resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study is clear in its results: horror fans show less psychological distress in times of social isolation.
Among their notes, they highlight that fear-loving moviegoers felt more prepared to face the pandemic and, in addition, they were more optimistic and resilient during the confinement. Another curiosity highlighted by the study is that “people with morbid curiosity are more interested in pandemic films during the pandemic.”
How can horror movies help us?
“One explanation for why people engage in frightening fictional experiences is that these experiences can act as simulations of real experiences from which individuals can gather information and model possible worlds,” the research proposes.
Noting how much and what kind of cinema the study participants consumed, they found that those who appeared to be frequenters of scary cinema showed “greater preparation and psychological resilience towards the pandemic”, as well as “greater resilience”.
Moreover, the consumption of the genre called “prepper”, i.e. sci-fi films linked to apocalyptic events, alien invasions or zombies, was linked to “greater recoverability and preparation”.
According to the researchers, the main conclusion is that “exposure to scary fictions allows the public to practice effective coping strategies that can be beneficial in real-world situations.”
And you, do you like this type of cinema?