A research team from Aarhus University discovered that horror becomes entertaining when it activates a certain physical reaction, something like an alteration in heart rate, and gives a brief digression from a person’s normal physiological state.
Nevertheless, the entertainment can take turn into fear when that digression is long-lasting, as it can induce individuals to become stressed-out and then fear takes over.
The study indicates there is a ‘sweet spot’ for where fear entertainment is higher, but can rapidly cross the line into a frightening ordeal.
Fear is commonly classified as being horrible and is wielded as a way for humans to insure themselves from danger.
But, there is a happening known as ‘recreational fear,’ this happens when it is a satisfying occurrence in which people want to experience.
Marc Malmdorf Andersen, a researcher at the Interacting Minds Center at Aarhus University and lead author of the paper, explained that: ‘By investigating how humans derive pleasure from fear, we find that there seems to be a ‘sweet spot’ where enjoyment is maximized.’
‘Our study provides some of the first empirical evidence on the relationship between fear, enjoyment, and physical arousal in recreational forms of fear.’
The study included 110 partakers who wore a heart monitoring gadgets as they wandered through a 50-room haunted house that had a number of scare ploys.
This comprised periodic jump frights, in which zombies or other monstrous creatures unexpectedly emerged or moved toward the volunteer.
The volunteers were also supervised by scientists via a livestream, enabling them to detect real-time reactions as they courageously walked through the haunted house.
When the partakers got to the end of the haunted house, they were inquired of the degree of fear and entertainment during each encounter.
The self-reported occurrences were distinguished with the heart rate monitor data and surveillance cameras to deduce the fear-related and enjoyment-related characteristics of the attraction on emotional, behavioural and physiological levels.
‘Past studies on recreational fear, however, have not been able to establish a direct relationship between enjoyment and fear,’ said Andersen.
Plotting the connection between self-reported fear and entertainment, the researchers realized an inverted U-shape trend, indicating an obvious delightful spot for fear where enjoyment is maximized.
‘If people are not very scared, they do not enjoy the attraction as much, and the same happens if they are too scared,’ said Andersen. ‘Instead, it seems to be the case that a ‘just-right’ amount of fear is central for maximizing enjoyment.’
But, when frightening occurrence stimulate substantial and long-lasting digressions from this regular state, as gauged by pulse rates going up and down repeatedly over an extended period of time, awful feelings often arise.
‘This is strikingly similar to what scientists have found to characterize human play,’ said Andersen.
‘We know, for instance, that curiosity is often aroused when individuals have their expectations violated to a just-right degree, and several accounts of play stress the importance of just-right doses of uncertainty and surprise for explaining why play feels enjoyable.’