A new study conducted over the past few months in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic found that fans of apocalyptic and horror-themed works reported less pain and resilience in the real COVID-19 pandemic than those who did not consume such works. Why some people like to watch thrillers is a question that many researchers have long pondered. While the answer is undoubtedly multifaceted, there is a hypothesis that the traumatic narrative of fiction allows people to simulate challenging scenes in a safe environment.
“If it’s a good movie, it pulls you in, and you’re going to look at it from the character’s point of view, so you’re inadvertently rehearsing these scenes,” Coltan Scrivner, one of the authors of the new study, told the Guardian. “We think people are learning in a generational way.”
So, if that assumption is true, then people who watch and enjoy apocalyptic movies should be better able to cope with THE COVID-19 trauma than those who avoid watching such movies and TV shows. Scrivener and a team of psychologists began exploring this possibility by interviewing 310 subjects.
The questions covered which media the subjects liked to consume, including specifically asking how much they liked movies like pandemics, apocalypse and alien invasions. In addition, the group was asked about their level of preparedness for the pandemic and the psychological distress they had suffered since the outbreak began.
The result simply has some intriguing nuances. Fans of horror films, for example, reported a marked reduction in their psychological pain in the face of a global pandemic. However, horror movie fans were not associated with higher levels of preparation or resilience.
Unsurprisingly, the apparently high readiness rate comes from fans of the so-called “preparer type,” including movies about apocalyptic scenes or alien invasions. In terms of resilience and preparation, the best results came from those who specifically reported the highest participation in pandemic films.
Back in March, Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller “Contagion” suddenly changed into the popular list of many streaming services in the early wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This phenomenon is confusing to many, after all, as Scrivener points out in his second research paper, why should people “search for entertainment about themes that cause mass chaos in their lives”? This strange counter-intuitive feature, he says, is called “pathological curiosity.”
“In fact, this pathological act of curiosity may make sense because it is the output of an evolutionary mechanism that deals with threats or dangerous situations in the cognition of organisms, has the ability to imagine themselves in such situations, and learns from these imaginary experiences,” Scrivner wrote in his second study.