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With Halloween quickly approaching, one of everyone’s favorite ways to get in the spooky spirit is through watching scary movies. Whether it be visiting local theaters for the newest releases of the season, or simply rewatching our favorite classics at home, many of us love a good scare through the screen around this time of year. Horror films are widely-loved, with over 70% of adults under the age of 35 reporting that they enjoy scary movies. 

But one may ask the question: why is this the case? Fear is a response that we tend to interpret negatively in our daily lives, but many of us find ourselves willingly putting ourselves through fear around this time of year. Why do we love being scared when it comes to movies?

When we perceive something as scary, our body induces a fight-or-flight response, as many of us may be familiar. However, our brains are able to quickly evaluate the situation. When we are watching a scary movie in the comfort of our homes, our brains know that we are safe and are able to act accordingly. Our mechanisms are briefly activated and subsequently calmed once our brain reminds us of our safety. Therefore, these feelings of “fear” we experience are controlled and are not perceived in the same way that a genuine threat would be. 

But even then, why do we enjoy the fear we experience? It turns out, as we experience the rush of adrenaline that comes with fear, we experience a release of endorphins, as well as dopamine, commonly known as the “feel-good” hormone. This reaction can result in arousal, similar to what we would experience in a state of excitement or happiness. 

Furthermore, our personality traits could influence us to be more or less inclined to enjoy scary films. Experts report that individuals who enjoy sensation-seeking and enjoys thrilling and challenging environments are more likely to enjoy horror movies. 

Though our love for fear may initially seem confusing, the science behind the way our brain works offers a clear explanation for our habits around this time of year. This October, enjoy your favorite horror and thriller movies and thank your brain’s mechanisms for the fun and thrilling experience!

Kaviya is a junior studying psychology. Her hobbies include drawing and reading thriller/mystery novels, and she hopes to work in the field of clinical psychology one day.