Watching horror movies and having high tolerance for morbid stuff, apparently, have its benefits. And we’re not just talking about the thrilling kind of pleasure you get when you find a good horror story that makes trips to the bathroom at night a challenge.
A group of researchers from the United States and Denmark wanted to learn whether consuming horror and morbid content correlates with an individual’s preparedness and ability to cope for times like the pandemic.
And to prove their point, the team led by Coltan Scrivner, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Comparative Human Development at The University of Chicago, recruited 310 individuals in the United States in April 2020 for the study.
The participants were asked genre- and pandemic-specific questions in 7-point scales to assess their emotional state during the research.
Some of the items included in the questionnaire were “During the pandemic, I have been more depressed than usual,” “I haven’t been sleeping well since the pandemic started,” “I was mentally prepared for a pandemic like the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” and “I was able to predict how bad things would get due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic before things really took off.”
Interestingly, the study has found that “fans of horror films exhibit less psychological distress” during the pandemic while “fans of ‘prepper’ films (alien-invasion, apocalyptic, and zombie films) reported being more prepared.” On the other hand, the morbidly curious ones “exhibit greater positive resilience” and they’re even more interested in pandemic films now that we’re actually living through one.
It’s important to note, however, that these findings don’t suggest in any way that these people enjoy what the pandemic has caused to the world.
“Through engaging often with frightening fictional experiences, horror fans and morbidly curious individuals can gather information and practice emotion regulation skills that may benefit them in dangerous real-world scenarios,” wrote the authors of the study. And that’s perhaps where their resilience and preparedness for the pandemic are stemming from.
“Fiction allows the audience to explore an imagined version of the world at very little cost,” the researchers shared.
But if you’ve never been a fan of horror and morbidity since the beginning of time, suddenly binge-watching or consuming these types of content won’t necessarily help you cope with the situation.
In an interview with Vice, the study’s lead author Scrivner shared “Of course, if someone hates horror movies, it may simply make it worse […] If emotion regulation skills are what are being improved and helping people deal with the pandemic, it may also be best to watch movies that are scary to you, not movies that are considered the scariest in general. If this is how it works, the whole point would be for you to learn to accept feeling afraid or anxious, and learn how to overcome that feeling.”