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The psychology of fear

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 6:02 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Fall is officially here and if you’re more excited about scary movies and haunted houses than you are about falling leaves or pumpkin spice, then you might be a type T personality. Otherwise known as someone who enjoys the thrill of being afraid.

“Fear is like a hard-wired response, but the fear that’s created around Halloween or listening to scary stories is more about the adrenaline rush,” said PhD Clinical Psychologist, Karri Scovel.

That adrenaline rush is a response to being terrorized. The brain releasing dopamine leading to an adrenaline rush.

The rush can happen even if you know you’re safe, “and then if you’re in a safe space, it goes from terrorized to just fear. The dopamine stays in your brain a while so when people watch scary movies, oftentimes they have this emotional reaction, and sometimes it’s a connection reaction if they’re with their friends or their significant other, or boyfriend or have you,” said Scovel.

“Who doesn’t love a scary movie? In crafting the story it’s always fun to think about what gets people scared and excited and everyone looks for that rush that’s why they go to see a scary movie. They’re looking for that rush of excitement and, so crafting that story you look for those moments and I think we all enjoy stories that get us like a good roller coaster just gets us jolted with a good jump scare, gets under our skin, or is just spooky,” said filmmaker, Michael Linn.

Linn, who directed the thriller movie “Imprint,” says writing a scary movie means figuring out what truly frightens your audience.

“As a filmmaker, you try to tap into those same things that get you excited when you watch other films or even in life. Those goosebumps moments you have in life. What are things that you think are scary?”

But the thrills and chills of scary movies are not for everyone. In fact, 1 third of the population would completely avoid watching a movie that induces fear.

“For them, it’s not fun to be afraid. They don’t enjoy it. They don’t get anything out of it. They don’t get any experience. They get more hypervigilant or wound up about it. Some people will say I can’t go to sleep at all after I’ve watched a scary movie,” said Scovel.

“I guess as a filmmaker that’s the ultimate compliment if they watch your film and can’t sleep at night, but I think that’s why people don’t want to watch scary movies, they want to get a good night’s sleep,” said Linn.

There are even more people who would rather avoid being afraid altogether. Unlike type T personalities who enjoy most thrill-seeking adventures.

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