Horror movie fans are experiencing less ‘psychological distress’ during pandemic, study suggests

‘Scary stories present ample learning opportunities,’ says the study

Louis Chilton
Wednesday 23 September 2020 07:48 BST
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A new study has suggested that horror movie enthusiasts are coping better with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The research was conducted by the Research Program for Media, Communication, and Society and the School of Communication and Culture at Aarhus University, Denmark.

“Although most people go into a scary movie with the intention of being entertained rather than learning something, scary stories present ample learning opportunities,” says the report.

“Fiction allows the audience to explore an imagined version of the world at very little cost. Through fiction, people can learn how to escape dangerous predators, navigate novel social situations, and practice their mind-reading and emotion regulation skills.”

The study only incorporated a small sample size (310 participants), meaning that its conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.

But according to the research, those respondents who indicated a preference for horror also suggested they had suffered less psychological distress over the past few months.

“One reason that horror use may correlate with less psychological distress is that horror fiction allows its audience to practice grappling with negative emotions in a safe setting,” the study continues.

“Experiencing negative emotions in a safe setting, such as during a horror film, might help individuals hone strategies for dealing with fear and more calmly deal with fear-eliciting situations in real life.”

However, the researchers warned non-horror fans against seeking out the scariest films in an effort to boost their coping mechanisms.

“If someone hates horror movies, it may simply make it worse,” they revealed.

“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.”

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