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Why do we like to be scared (for the fun of it)?

hauntedhouseIn case you haven't seen it, The Atlantic posted a fun Halloween Q&A with "scare specialist" Margee Kerr, PhD, a Pittsburgh haunted house's staff sociologist and an instructor at Robert Morris University and Chatham University. In the piece, Kerr explains the the brain chemistry behind being scared, and differences in how people experience a dopamine kick. She also notes that some may feel a boost of confidence after the post-fight-or-flight response, and others relish the social connection that comes from sharing experiences with heightened emotion.

Still, as someone who checks behind every closet door and shower curtain upon coming home each night and resists watching even a suspenseful Lifetime Original Movie, I was curious to know more about why so many people would scare themselves on purpose.

Kerr says in the Q&A:

[A] shared characteristic of monsters across the globe is their blurred relationship with death and the body. Humans are obsessed with death; we simply have a hard time wrapping our mind around what happens when we die. This contemplation has led to some of the most famous monsters, with each culture creating their own version of the living dead, whether it’s zombies, vampires, reanimated and reconstructed corpses, or ghosts. We want to imagine a life that goes on after we die. Or better yet, figure out a way to live forever. Again, though, that would violate the laws of nature and is therefore terrifying.

Previously: Are you happy now? Stanford Roundtable spotlights the science of happiness and wellbeingHow does your body respond to stress? and Stress hormones moonlight as immune-system traffic cops
Photo by barb_ar

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