Some people can’t get enough of scary movies. They’ve seen scores of scary films – over and over. They catch horror flicks on opening night. They have DVD collections at home.
Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead watching a scary movie. They freak me out, leaving me unsettled for days — the images a record player in my mind. In fact, I have a hard enough time sitting through the scarier scenes of “Sons of Anarchy.” (I watch it with my boyfriend, and sometimes need to leave the room.)
With Halloween upon us — the prime season for horror films — I was curious to find out why some people savor scary movies. And others, like me, can’t stand them.
The Excitation Transfer Process
According to Glenn Sparks, Ph.D, a professor and associate head of the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University, one reason for the appeal is how you feel after the movie. This is called the excitation transfer process. Sparks’s research found that when people watch frightening films, their heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increases.
After the film is over, this physiological arousal lingers, Sparks said. (We’re just not aware of it.) That means that any positive emotions you experience – like having fun with friends – are intensified, he said. Instead of focusing on the fright you felt during the film, you recall having a great time. And you’ll want to come back for more, he said.
However, if your experience was negative, you might not. For instance, let’s say you were on a date that wasn’t going well or you got into a car accident on your way home, Sparks said. Again, because your lingering arousal heightens any emotions you experience, the negative feelings might sway you to skip a scary flick in the future.