Why do some people love horror movies and others hate them?

Are you scared? 
(Google Common License)

Are you scared? (Google Common License)

The whole month of October, many people have been celebrating Halloween by carving pumpkins and picking out the perfect costume, while others have been going to haunted houses and watching horror movies. But why do some people enjoy these scarier activities more than others?

One reason for some people’s love of horror movies is how they feel after the movie. This is called the excitation transfer process. According to research done by Professor Glenn Sparks at Purdue University, after a scary movie, your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration increase(PsychCentral.com). Your heartbeat can increase as much as fifteen beats per minute, your palms sweat, and your skin temperature drops several degrees.

However, only about 10% of the population experiences enjoy this adrenaline rush. People differ in their chemical response to thrilling situations. One of the main hormones released when you’re scared is dopamine. So, any positive emotions you feel are intensified. People who have “intense physiological reactions” to horror movies usually have a hard time blocking out unwanted stimuli in their environment.

Another reason for people’s love of horror movies is that they’re fascinated by them since they’re unusual. Humans have an innate need to stay aware of the dangers in their environment. Since danger disrupts routine, curiosity about change is important for survival. A common example of this is how people slow down to stare at the scene of an accident. With horror movies, people are curious to see what happens and have to keep watching, even if they’re scared.

But, for people that get really scared, the novelty of horror movies isn’t worth it. According to Sparks, “individuals may suffer lingering emotional fallout if something in the environment reminds them of a scene”(PsychCentral.com). For example, some people stopped swimming the ocean after watching Jaws.