Your brain on Horror movies: How do horror movies manipulate your brain?


Your brain on horror movies: How do horror movies manipulate your brain?

"When there's no more room left in the hell, the dead will walk the earth"-Dawn of the dead. The statement above is an extremely popular dialogue from one of the scariest movies. Ever since its advent, horror fiction has puzzled the minds of people. The lesser-known fact is that watching horror movies can affect your brain and your body. Have you known that watching horror movies can burn your calories?

In this article, 'Your brain on Horror movies: How do horror movies manipulate your brain?', we shall observe ways in which horror movies manipulate the human brain, how they aggravate hallucinations, and many more facts pertained to it.

Why do we watch horror movies?

Despite being scared to death, we watch horror movies again and again. For some of us, amongst all the genres, horror is the most preferable one. As humans, our routine, monotonous lives seem dull and colorless. We sometimes feel a deep sense of lack. It is then that we crave to do something different. Something adventurous. When it comes to that, no adventure is more thrilling than watching a horror movie with a coke and popcorn. The average age of a person watching a horror movie for the first time is around age 11.

 According to a study, low neuroticism and high sensation-seeking are found to be better predictors of horror movie preference. People prefer watching them because they fulfill emotional and cognitive needs like feeling thrilled, suspense, having fun, etc. Watching a horror movie, you can safely feel things like mystery, terror, fear, and angst which you might not experience in your everyday life. It is cathartic and based on Sigmund Freud's 'return of repressed' argument. Preference for horror movies is not necessarily connected with psychopathology. So, don't worry. Nothing's wrong with you.
However, the same study indicated that loneliness is one of the major factors of this morbid preference. People who feel lonely tend to prefer horror movies. 

What makes horror films 'scary'?

In this section, we shall discuss the factors that make a horror film 'scary'. We usually watch a lot of horror movies. But, did you ever give a thought to what could be the scariest movie ever in the history of the tinsel world? Stop thinking about it now. According to an article published in Forbes, Sinister, a 2012 horror /thriller starring Ethan Hawke is the scariest movie ever. Filmmakers, especially horror filmmakers are no less than psychiatrists since they know how to make millions utilizing and capturing our emotions. What makes a film scary? 

1. SOUND EFFECTS- You probably must have noticed the mysterious, eerie sounds being played in the background simultaneously when you watch a scary film. Try watching a scary movie without these effects. The movie would not be that scarier as it was meant to be. Filmmakers rely on sound effects to heighten fear and suspense. Distressed animal calls, non-linear sounds with large wavelengths which are often found in nature are used in movies to create instinctual fear. 'Waterphone', is a widely used sound effect in modern horror movies. But in the olden days, the theremin was extensively used to serve the purpose. 

2. MAKEUP- How do you prefer a ghost? Would you like it to be plain and dressed in casuals? Or, would you want it to be dressed in a long flowing robe, pale-skinned, bloody mouthed, with its dark, black, long hair sweeping the floor and hiding its facade? I don't know about you. But, I prefer the second one. In an exploratory survey conducted on 1000 randomly selected students from Turkish universities,  it was found that 70.04% of respondents loved to watch horror films where the 'djinn' was the most feared religious horror character. The survey also suggested that makeup and visual effects used in horror movies appear to be of more importance and appealing to the audiences. 

3. METAPHORS- The two metaphors 'evil is down' and 'evil is dark' are used extensively within this genre. Rarely can demons and ghosts be seen in daylight in horror films. The ambiance is always gloomy, dull, and dismal. 

(RELATED: Is Daydreaming good for your brain? This is what Experts say...)

What happens to your brain when you watch horror movies?

Hormone Release- Watching horror movies immediately releases the hormone adrenaline. This hormone allows you to be extra alert and vigilant of your surroundings that is why during or after the movie, your five senses are very sensitive. It can make you imagine and overthink on hearing some small noise under the bed or seeing the little bright light outside the door. In other words, it excites you, be it in a positive or a negative way.
Associated new fear- Horror movies can make your brain associate scary movie plots to real-life scenarios and make you afraid. “For one, the Thai movie Shutter has left a big impact on me. Whenever I see a photographer's red room, I immediately think of that ghost and become afraid of entering the room. It creates unreasonable fear due to association to normal life's activities” said Robert Johnson, Founder of Sawinery.

Your brain is hijacked by fear when you watch spooky movies. The amygdala, an area of the temporal lobe instructs the body on how to respond to fear. Your mental focus sharpens for you to be able to respond more quickly to the threat ahead of you. “Increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline would be pumped around the body to make sure that your body is prepared to run away or fight whatever it is that causes you to fear,” said Davina Ramkissoon, Well being Director at Zevo Health.  But in this case, since you already know that it’s just a movie and it can’t harm you, your brain releases dopamine making you feel good and rewarded instead. I guess that explains the pleasure-seeking and thrill while watching a horror film.

Is watching horror movies bad?

According to a survey conducted by Taylor and Francis Online on 610 respondents, to examine the connection between key personality traits and risk-taking behavior, it was found that sensation-seeking, argumentativeness, and verbal aggressiveness were linked to exposure to violent and horror films. 

Watching too many horror movies will also make your adrenaline threshold higher thus it would make you release adrenaline at a later period of time. This is not very helpful during real-life accidents when you need your brain to release adrenaline immediately to escape the impending hazard. 

Concluding 'Your brain on horror movies: How do horror movies manipulate your brain?'

As long as moderation is maintained, nothing can harm you. Try to keep your equilibrium still. Don't let it oscillate. Analyzing the entire article, we can say that there's not much benefit to the brain except for the thrill and enjoyment of watching. But watching too many scary movies is definitely bad as described above. 

If you liked my work, you can also buy my ebook, 'Resuscitate yourself', by clicking here or you can get it from Kindle and Amazon. It is a self-help book, which is mainly focused on an effectively efficient approach in improving brain power and beating stress, depression, and other mental ailments. 

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