Asked by: William Bennett, Peterborough
Evolutionary psychologists say that horror films tap into our primal fears, such as fear of contamination and fear of being eaten, which explains the popularity of zombie movies and films featuring oversized carnivores. Horror films essentially provide a safe way for us to rehearse mentally how we would cope with age-old dangers. Curiously, the more negative emotions a person says they experience during a horror flick, the more likely they are to say they enjoy the genre. One theory is that this is because some people, especially sensation-seekers, find pleasure in the feelings of relief that follow after intense fear.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.