Why Do People Enjoy Being Scared?
Granted, not everyone likes having the pants scared off of them, but others watch scary movies, read murder mysteries, and play terrifying video games. The question is, why do we subject ourselves to this? When other people mean to scare us or do us harm it is, of course, unwelcome, but some people (myself included, I will admit) willingly inflict it upon themselves. As mostly rational beings, we should want to avoid this at all costs, and yet here we are, producing media that's designed to produce a fear response. With Halloween around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to investigate.
The author of this article thought that the rush of adrenaline you experience when getting scared was similar to a runner's high, so chronic scare-seekers were getting more dopamine. To test this, they interviewed participants at an extreme haunted house and measured their brain activity after going through the attraction. The participants reported feeling happier after being scared out of their minds, and the more scared they got inside, the better they felt. According to the EEG scan each participant in this study received, those who felt happier experienced decreased brain activity from before to after they went through the haunted house.
So to some extent, their original hypothesis was correct--being in the haunted house provided a sense of uncertainty and anxiety, physical exertion, and a clear end goal (to get away from the stressful situation). With that came a sense of accomplishment at the end, similar to the way one might feel after running a 5k. What's more, after being scared out of your wits, you tend to feel like other everyday challenges are no big deal in comparison to the high-stress situation you just endured. That being said, not everyone reacts the same way to being frightened--some people might be more confident, and others will want to run and hide.
What it all boils down to is that being scared in a controlled environment, such as a haunted house or when watching a scary movie, can prepare you for scary situations in real life. You can see how you would react in a certain scenario and whether or not that would be beneficial if what was happening was real. This allows you to get to know yourself better, in a way. But more importantly, it's just supposed to be fun.
Do you love getting scared, or hate it? I'm the type of person who watches horror movies all year round and can't wait to go to a haunted house, even if I know I'll be scared by it later.