If you're a fan of scary movies — the kind with roaming zombies, possessed spirits, supernatural creatures, giant monsters, alien invasions or apocalyptic themes — you may be surprised to learn that the horror films you enjoy so much do more than offer an entertaining fright — they can prepare you to deal with the real fears and anxieties connected to our present-day pandemic.
That’s what researchers discovered when they asked over 300 volunteers about the kinds of movies and television shows they liked the most. The survey, conducted over the web, offered respondents these choices: horror, zombie, psychological thrillers, supernatural, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, science fiction, alien invasion, crime, comedy or romance genres. Participants also answered questions about how they felt they were coping with their fears about becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 and the isolation of lockdown.
People who gravitated toward movies designed to scare the audience were better prepared to handle the stresses of the global pandemic. “What we found was that people who watched certain kinds of movies [scary, suspenseful ones] before the pandemic seemed to be helped by them during the pandemic,” researcher, John Johnson, professor emeritus of psychology at Penn State University, said in a statement. “They apparently serve as mental rehearsal for actual events.”
Frightening entertainment may help us prepare for the possible catastrophes that lie ahead.
Frightening entertainment may also help us to gain strength for possible catastrophes that lie ahead. “This reinforces my belief that consuming stories from books, films and maybe even video games is not just an idle pastime, but a way for us to imagine simulated realities that help prepare us for future challenges,” Johnson said.
There are other perks to viewing horror flicks. Past research has shown additional psychological and health benefits: everything from relieving stress and boosting the immune system, lifting our mood, helping us feel more in control.
So, the next time you’re choosing a movie, do your mind and body a favor and pick one that gives you a fright.
The study is published in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences.