Why do people like being scared?

It’s October time! If you were any normal person my age, you will probably be counting down the days until Halloween. But, seeing how I’m the self-appointed “Scrooge of Halloween”, I’m not. In fact I already expressed my reasons why I don’t like it last year. But, that was a year ago, so seeing how it’s Halloween time again, I felt like it was time to delve into something deeper- Why DO people like being scared?



This isn’t just a question for Halloween, but a question in general. People love traumatising themselves watching scary movies, reading horror stories and picturing something horrible standing behind them…

empty child

Gotcha there! But that’s the thing. People love this. Now I’m not saying I don’t do this. When I went to Singapore two years ago, I marathoned through volumes of True Singapore Ghost Stories. Some of them were scary, some weren’t. So why do people do this? In Doctor Who, people always anticipate the scary episodes. Every horror movie is hugely hyped. I think you get the point now. I have several theories as to why this mentality is so popular.

First of all, I think that being scared by fiction is preparation for getting scared in reality. Watching the Empty Child on telly is not going to be as scary as being in a dark forest, with no lights and creepy sounds. Genuine fear is very rare and traumatising for some and fiction is never going to be as scary. People enjoy watching scary movies because they can be assured that those creatures and ghosts do not exist and can therefore not be as afraid of real life. In the natural world, cats and other creatures respond to fear by making themselves bigger and making noises. This is shown in humans as when humans get scared, the hairs on the back of their head stand up, they start sweating and get more defensive. It’s just a natural occurrence in all animals, which could explain people’s obsession with fear.

Another reason is that it’s fun. You get scared by the Weeping Angels (I know the examples are all Doctor Who references but I don’t watch horror movies), and after the episode you discuss how awesome the whole thing is. The memory of being scared is just an after thought. After a whole week of hard work, people deserve to have their heart pumping and have excitement thrown at them.

So that’s why I believe people like being scared and one reason why Halloween is such a big deal. As for my Doctor Who reviews? Well, as they take a lot of time, I’ve decided to wait until the series is over and then do a post about how Series 8 develops the Doctor. My next post will either be my earliest Doctor Who memories or a post on why I love Eastleigh, Southampton and Winchester.

4 thoughts on “Why do people like being scared?

  1. I think that it is all to do with the ‘flight/fight’ response which is deeply programmed into our genetic heritage. When something scares us, we are programmed to run away or fight back. To assist in this, the body is flooded with endorphins which act as a stimulant and a pain suppressor, but also have the side effect of making us feel really elated and exhilarated after the danger has passed.

    So I don’t think that we like being scared, but I do think that we like the after-effects of having been scared.

    This is my understanding, but I am sure there will be plenty of people out there to correct me if I have got it completely (or even slightly) wrong.

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