No one is exempt from the feeling of fear. It is that particular anticipation of fear that causes many to jump during a horror movie. There is an interesting underlying reason for why so many find themselves jumping during a scary movie, and it all has to do with the chemical reactions and brain signals.
When the body feels at ease watching a scary movie, there remains an abundance of action taking place in the brain. During a scary plot build-up, the body will begin to become tense with anticipation of the coming event. The brain knows that something is going to happen, but does not know what. And when the expected action occurs, it acts as a stimulus that in turn triggers a signal, called the amygdala in the brain that causes the body to react.
Next, discover how the amygdala works with the brain and how it effectively makes a person fearful.
Triggering The Brain
The amygdala is a region close to the base of the brain and it sends the brain chemical, glutamate, to two other regions of the brain. The first region is what causes the body to either freeze-up or jump involuntarily. The reactions are entirely automatic since the signal is sent deep into the base of the brain to an area that the body has very little control over. The second signal, which is forwarded to the hypothalamus, triggers the body’s autonomic nervous system which is the system that is responsible for the fight or flight instinct. The hypothalamus signal elevates the heart rate, blood pressure and shoots adrenaline throughout the body, which is the rush that is felt during a scare.
Keep reading to reveal the three stages of fear that the brain processes when dealing with a scary situation, such as watching a horror movie.
The Stages Of Fear
Fear is typically experienced in three different stages. The first is the freeze stage, which is an evolutionary response designed to hide us from a potential predator if it is sensed nearby. The second stage involves adrenaline, as this hormone courses through the body to assist in getting an individual away as quickly as possible from the imminent threat. Finally, if running away becomes no longer an option, adrenaline can assist the body in fighting or attempt to fight off the threat, hence the instinct of fight or flight taking place when an individual is facing a fearful situation.
Continue reading to uncover how adrenaline works and how the body calms down after being frightened.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
If the situation is determined not to be real or life-threatening, the body is quick to reverse the fear-response through the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the counteraction to the fight or flight instinct and directly reverses the overflow of adrenaline, which lowers the heart rate back to its normal state. This is why when the body jumps during a scary movie it does not suddenly begin coursing with adrenaline. Following the initial reaction, the brain recognizes that the threat is not real and the parasympathetic nervous system takes over to calm the body back down.
Next, unearth the reasons why we love horror films and continue to watch them despite the fear it causes us.
Why Do We Watch Horror Films?
To put it quite simply, for those who enjoy horror films, they love a good scare once in a while and actually love to be frightened, or else they would not watch horror films at all. Individuals choose their entertainment because they want it to affect them in some way, which is incredibly true for horror lovers, as these films tend to have major effects in the film and on the viewer. The scary thing is that we want these effects and a fair resolution in the end, such as the enemy or bad guy to get what’s coming to them. Even if someone chooses to watch these films, the images are still disturbing to them (and many others), but consumers have the ability to pay attention to as much or little as they desire to control what effect it has on them, including mentally and emotionally.
Dr. Glenn Walters wrote in the Journal of Media Psychology that there are three predominant factors that make horror movies captivating for the audience. These three factors are tension created in the film such as suspense, terror, or gore, relevance and how relatable the film is personally to an individual or to society, and its unrealism. He believes these are three factors that make horror movies not only terrifying for the viewer but appealing as well, hence why we enjoy them so much.