Experts from Research Program for Media, Communication, and Society and the School of Communication and Culture at Aarhus University have revealed findings from their study that show that fans of the horror genre as well as “morbidly curious individuals” are more “psychologically resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Although most people go into a scary movie with the intention of being entertained rather than learning something, scary stories present ample learning opportunities,” the study explained.
“Though lumbering, flesh-hungry zombies do not exist and thus represent no real threat to humans, situations that present themselves in zombie movies may be analogous to situations that would occur in real-world events.”
It continued, “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.”
They added that those who are used to watching flicks from the horror genre compared to others were generally more mentally “prepared” and experienced less psychological distress amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.
“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 continued, adding, “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.”
Though, they warned that if the thought of diving into terrifying flicks like The Conjuring and The Exorcist is already giving you anxiety, then forcing yourself to watch these sort of movies may have the opposite effect.
“Of course, if someone hates horror movies, it may simply make it worse,” they wrote. “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.”