Why Do Some People Like to be Scared?

Haunted houses, hayrides and other Halloween-themed attractions are popular during this time of year, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to them. The same can be said about scary movies, with several streaming platforms and channels promoting frightening and suspenseful films and television shows.

Being scared is usually perceived as a negative emotion, but some people willing seek out frightening stuff. What are the reasons why some people enjoy getting scared? Here are a few explanations:

A sense of control. Unlike most real life situations, we can enter a spooky attraction or watch a scary movie knowing what’s going to happen. According to a 2014 Insider article, once the brain realizes that the scary situation is not for real, it still reacts with the “fight or flight” response, but in a more relaxed way. Knowing we can get a “safe” fright can make us want to keep going back to these places or continue watching scary movies.

A release of emotions. According to Psychology Today, getting frightened triggers a reaction in the brain that releases dopamine, a chemical associated with positive emotions. After the feeling subsides, we can be left with a sense of satisfaction that we “made it through” something scary, and serve as a stress reliever.

Exploring the unknown. As one WebMD article puts it, the “dark side” of life can pique curiosity in some people. We can become “interested in the unusual and the bizarre because [we] don’t understand it and it’s so different from our everyday lives.” The unknown part of a scary attraction fits into this niche, and wanting to know what’s hidden inside can prompt us to seek it out.

A bonding experience. Like most group activities, experiencing something scary together helps create bonds among people. A 2017 NBC News article explains that confronting a frightening challenge with certain people creates a positive association with them, having experienced that confronting a frightening challenge together creates a positive association with them due to having experienced something together and resulted it.

So what about the people that don’t enjoy getting scared? What’s the difference between those people and those who like a scare? A 2016 Healthline article, our reaction to fear can be affected by several different things, including previous experiences, personality and temperament. For example, if someone experienced a similar scary situation in the past with a negative outcome, they are unlikely to want to experience it again.

When it comes to personality and temperament, some experts say that people who are more outgoing and have an openness for experience are traits associated with “fear lovers.” However, this doesn’t mean that everyone who exhibits these qualities will enjoy being scared, as everyone has their own preference. For those people who don’t enjoy the frights, there are still plenty of alternative attractions to seek out, including the upcoming excitement of the holiday season.


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