Psychological Activity

Sorry French language, Halloween is coming up and to celebrate, I decided to watch Paranormal Activity 3 in theaters last night.

BAD IDEA. (I’m even too scared to Google search images to post!)

I hid behind my hands 75% of the time and screamed at anything that suddenly popped up. It even continued after the movie was finished: I turned on all the lights at home, ran up the stairs, and made sure that I was safe underneath my blanket. It sounds like I had a horrible time, but truth is, I loved it. Why?

Why would I love something that makes me feel paranoid and uneasy? I don’t know the answer either, which is why I decided to do some research!

“No doubt, there’s something really powerful that brings people to watch these things, because it’s not logical,” Joanne Cantor, PhD, director of the Center for Communication Research at University of Wisconsin, Madison, tells WebMD. “Most people like to experience pleasant emotions.” What Dr. Cantor has to say is indeed very true and after reading several articles, there are a number of logical reasons for people’s love of horror films.

From an evolutionary stand-point, we pay attention to what signals danger (blood, guts, gore) in order to maximize our chances of survival. Which, aside from curiosity, can explain why we rubberneck on the freeway to view an accident. However, the horror movies themselves don’t exactly teach us survival skills for the real world. The difference between the accident in front of us and the movie screen is that there is no need to respond to the danger presented in the film. We are able to satisfy our curiosity of watching what happens to the characters and not have to worry about being responsible for calling 911 or actually running for our lives from the blood thirsty zombies that just ate all your friends.

My television screen is the ultimate protection against “The Walking Dead.”

Glenn Sparks, Professor of communications at Purdue University and author of Media Effects Research (2009), mentions that our brain is not adapted to the technology of the silver screen. This explains why our body responds with a faster heart beat, sweaty palms, and rise in blood pressure–because our brain is sending our body signals of danger. Sparks studies the psychological effects of violent movies on young men and finds that the scarier the film presented was, the more satisfied the young man felt. This could be connected to our ancestors’ way of bringing boys into adulthood by making them endure pain–it would seem that movies are the new stand in for such rituals. In a nutshell, it would seem those who watch horror films do it for the thrill, the adrenaline rush and the satisfying feeling of know you’ll be ok by the end of it all.

I can easily relate to that, my friends often ask me why I enjoy these films if by the end of I cower at every corner of my house. My answer is always that it’s fun for me to watch these films, it’s almost like being on a roller coaster. Of course, it’s evident that watching these films have taken a psychological toll on me–I’m a little paranoid at 3:00am and hate thinking about any images that stayed in my memory. Regardless of this new knowledge of how may brain reacts, I will still continue to watch as many scary movies as possible.

Are you into scary movies? Or do you find that they are a waste of time and adrenaline? Are they psychologically bad for people?

Let me know and i’ll be sure to explore it in my next post!

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