Why do people like to be scared?

Beijing time on November 4th, there are always some people can find pleasure in the unknown and unpredictable things. Your neck and back are itching, your heart is jumping faster and faster in your chest, you’re opening your eyes, holding your arms tightly, and slowly walking into the dark house…


Haunted houses, horror movies and creepy costumes are all Halloween symbols. For most people, these activities are both fun and scary, and are the embellishment of ordinary life. However, some people are obsessed with these frightening thrills, and even after Halloween, they still enjoy it.

Professor Kenneth Carter, a clinical psychologist at Oxford College, Emory University in the US, says those who are keen to seek “thriller” in a terror environment have a “stimulus quest” personality trait. This feature determines how much we like about horror movies, mountain-climbing, high-speed racing, sharp turns or skydiving.

The concept of stimulation seeking was first proposed by American psychologist Martin Zuckerman in the 1970s. According to the National Library of Medicine, this personality trait consists of four parts:

(1) Tired of susceptibility: the demand for external stimulation;

(2) to suppress: spontaneous will;

(3) The pursuit of experience: eager to contact new things;

(4) Seeking stimulation and adventure: a desire to participate in exciting and adventurous sports.

To determine this personality trait, psychologists conducted a series of tests. Traditional tests often require subjects to make a mandatory answer choice (for example, do you prefer X or Y?). ), and today’s tests typically use a scale of 4 or 5 points (e.g. from strong opposition to strong support for a scale of 1 to 5). Those who scored higher in the test tended to pursue or even yearn for chaotic and frightening experiences, while those who scored lower tended to experience safe, predictable experiences.

Carter noted that those who scored high had lower levels of epinephrine and cortisol, while the neurotransmitter dopamine had higher levels than those who scored lower. So when in a terrible environment, such as entering a dark, scary haunted house, people with stimulating traits experience more pleasure than stress.

A 2018 study published in the journal Anxiety, Stress and Response found that people with stimulating traits tend to be less stressed and perform better in high-risk sports, making them well suited to stressful occupations, such as serving in special forces. Carter says this group of people also perform well in other high-stress occupations, such as emergency room doctors or nurses.

According to a 2019 study published in the journal BMC Pediatrics, stimulation seek is a personality trait that forms in early childhood (up to the age of three). The study reported that stimulating behavior in children between the ages of 3 and 6 is usually less likely than in older children, suggesting that the trait may increase with age until the age of 16 to 19. Carter believes that stimulation seeking usually peaks in the late teens, which may explain why many horror stories and horror films are marketed to people of this age group.

The study also found that boys were more likely than girls to be stimulated to seek. The researchers speculate that this may be the result of cultural influences. At the same time, this may also reflect differences in guts. However, boys and girls expressed the same desire for novelty and diverse experiences in the study.

“When people who seek character get the chance to experience something new, even if they’re trying new food, they’re in high spirits, and the weirder things, the better,” Carter said. The Museum of Thought ‘collects taste and experience, and I think it’s a great way to think,” Carter said. “

Carter also noted that studies have shown that men prefer action and risk-taking among adults who seek sex, while women prefer new experiences. This difference may stem from cultural factors, including educational and social impacts. The difference between men and women in stimulation seeking has been narrowing, suggesting that this may not be due to physiological differences. “Both men and women have stories of adventure in thrill-seeking, ” says Carter.

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