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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Horror fans are psychologically coping with the pandemic better than most, new study shows

Illustration for article titled Horror fans are psychologically coping with the pandemic better than most, new study shows
Screenshot: Summer School

You were probably called “weird” or “deranged” or “in dire need of therapy” when you skipped prom for a Texas Chainsaw marathon, but odds are you’re faring better these days than the buzzkills that asked why you couldn’t just watch nice stories with nice people. Why? Because, per a new scientific study, horror fans are apparently better equipped than normies to weather something so dire as a global pandemic.


Researchers at University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, and Aarhus University in Denmark collaborated on the as-yet-peer-reviewed study, which posits that “exposure to frightening fictions allow audiences to practice effective coping strategies that can be beneficial in real-world situations.”

This doesn’t mean that horror fans aren’t also hating the pandemic, but rather that they’re experiencing less psychological distress than those who don’t enjoy having the turds scared out of them.

It continues:

One reason that horror use may correlate with less psychological distress is that horror fiction allows its audience to practice grappling with negative emotions in a safe setting. Through fearing the murderer or monster on the screen, audiences have an opportunity to reflect on negative emotions such as fear or disgust and practice emotion regulation skills. Experiencing negative emotions in a safe setting, such as during a horror film, might help individuals hone strategies for dealing with negative emotions and more calmly deal with those negative emotions in real life situations.

Interestingly, the study focuses not only on horror fans, but also those the authors describe as having a “morbid curiosity,” a trait we’re guessing applies to people who grew up watching Faces Of Death and now cruise LiveLeak for shark attack videos. These people, the study notes, showed “positive resilience,” meaning they’re still finding ways to have positive experiences in the midst of the pandemic.


While horror films may help one practice dealing with negative emotions, they do not necessarily offer strategies for enjoying life in the midst of negative experiences,” the study says. “The morbidly curious individual may not see the pandemic as a terrible negative event (or at least not only as that). Rather, the morbidly curious individual may see the pandemic as an opportunity of sorts. The pandemic offers an opportunity to really understand a dangerous phenomenon.”

So, if you’re wondering who’s been renting the holy hell out of Contagion these last few months, there’s your answer.


Read the full study here.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.