Image Courtesy Of Paramount Pictures.
Of all the Halloween traditions, we love the scary movies thing the most — maybe even more than the candy. From Friday the 13th to The Ring to the super-terrifying Halloween, there’s something oddly satisfying — and, of course, fun — about sitting around with friends and screaming in abject horror. But, it turns out that there may be more to that scare factor than you might think: Experts say that being scared is actually good for you.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Michael Fanselow, a behavioral neuroscientist at UCLA, says that scary movies — although they're often extremely unrealistic — teach us to have appropriate responses to actual threats, particularly when we’re young. "The brain changes physically when we learn, and young adulthood is when the parts of our brain that provoke and control our fears need experiences in order to learn and come into balance," Fanselow says.
But, since the likelihood of coming face-to-face with a terrifying zombie is (thankfully) non-existent, how does watching the scary stuff help us IRL? It turns out watching Freddy Krueger slash his way through a movie is good instruction to watch out for actual dangers.
And, that physical thrill you get from being scared during a film is very real: your heart pumps faster, blood pressure rises, and dopamine, norepinephrine (a hormone that prepares the body to flee from danger if necessary), and endorphins (yes, the same endorphins you get from a great workout) flood your system. Of course, that rush isn’t for everyone — genetics, upbringing, and personal experiences could play a role in whether you’re a fear junkie or not.