Why Do People Enjoy Being Scared


Kevin B 3

A “FEAR” version of Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture.

Humans have been scaring themselves and each other for centuries, through all kinds of methods like storytelling and jumping out to startle each other. We’ve done this for many different reasons such as to build group unity, to prepare kids for life in the scary world, and to control behavior. Some people enjoy the thrill of being scared, and film producers have taken advantage of this.
Horror movies have been wildly popular on streaming platforms, especially since the year 2020. People enjoy pushing their limits, seeking thrills, and seeing how much fear they can tolerate. Horror films make us feel tension, fear, stress, and shock. Although fearful life events bring stress and trauma into our lives, watching horror movies brings pleasure to many. So why do some people enjoy being scared?

People watch movies they find interesting and ones that bring pleasurable emotions. Some people enjoy romance, others comedy, and even horror. How a movie makes us feel plays a big role in whether or not we enjoy it. The moment we feel threatened, we feel increasingly more strong and powerful physically, and more intuitive emotionally. This is called an adrenaline rush. Humans are hardwired to be drawn to this attention.

People can either have a high or low tolerance for fear. We all react differently to the same movie in the same theater. Those with a low tolerance for fear try to avoid the stress, anxiety, and paranoia that come with horror movies. Scott Barreneifer, who has a low tolerance for fear, said, “Being scared makes me feel like I don’t know what’s happening and paranoid all the time.” Watching horror movies as a child can have lasting effects on adulthood. Barreneifer said, “I have a fear of sharks because when I was a child I saw the movie Jaws.” Frank Vogel, who has a higher fear tolerance said, “I have never seen a horror movie that has been too much for me to handle”. He also believes that “it can be good to get your mind into a different space sometimes.”

Researchers have discovered neurochemical and biological reasons for the love of horror films. They come with a flood of fear paired with the relief of safety. To really enjoy a scary situation, we have to know we’re in a safe environment. This releases naturally occurring opioids like endorphins that signal pleasure, along with a hit of dopamine, a chemical linked to the brain’s reward center. After endorphins are released, the body feels relaxed. New research from David Zald shows that people differ in their chemical response to thrilling situations. One of the main hormones released during scary and thrilling activities is dopamine, and it turns out some individuals may get more of a kick from this dopamine response than others do. This is why people experience different levels of tolerance towards horror films.

Others find horror films intriguing because they are curious about the “dark side”. Horror movies are filled with uncertainty, suspense, and plot twists. The fear of the unknown is one of the most natural and instinctive fears that we have. Barreneifer said, “I think for some people it’s a way to escape.” Whether it is the adrenaline rush or curiosity that draws our attention to horror, these films are becoming more popular and accepted in society.