Not Too Scary, Not Too Tame: Horror Experiences Need To Hit A “Sweet Spot” To Be Enjoyable

You’re walking through a dark, dingy house. Floorboards creak and you think you hear something moving in the shadows. Suddenly, an engine revs and a blood-splattered man wearing a pig’s head lunges towards you with a chainsaw. You scream and run away. Terrifying, perhaps — but it also sounds kind of fun, right?

We generally think of fear as a negative emotion — something that signals danger and which is unpleasant to experience. Yet so many of us seek out situations that make us scared: haunted fairground rides, scary video games, and horror movies and novels. And now researchers have looked at exactly how the experience of fear is related to our enjoyment of this kind of “recreational horror”. The team finds that there’s a sweet spot when it comes to creating a scary but enjoyable experience: if you end up feeling too little fear — or too much — then it’s not quite as fun. Continue reading →

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