A team of psychologists sought out to learn who was coping well during the coronavirus pandemic, and found that an unusual group rose to the top: horror movie aficionados.
Horror movie fans — and those who were deemed more “morbidly curious” by a personality test — seem to be less psychologically distressed by COVID-19, New Scientist reports. The study, which was shared online this week, doesn’t answer why that’s the case. But the finding suggests that those who seek out terrifying fiction may have been better prepared, or at least more readily able to stay positive, as a nightmarish pandemic unfolded around them.
University of Chicago psychologist Coltan Scrivner, who worked on the research, told New Scientist that horror movie fans reported fewer negative mental states regarding the pandemic, “which suggested to us, maybe with horror it’s about emotion regulation.”
To explain why, Scrivner speculated about his own experience with horror. Watching horror films, he told New Scientist, “allows me to give myself the experience of being afraid and then conquering that fear.”
University of Pittsburgh researcher Margee Kerr, who didn’t work on the study, told New Scientist that she would reserve judgment until the research underwent peer review, but that she was curious about the underlying reason horror fans seemed more upbeat.
“Is it a matter of having learned better emotional regulation through viewing horror movies, or are they somehow better at emotional regulation to begin with?” she told New Scientist.
But what is clear is that people who want to cope with the pandemic better can’t just go have a horror marathon and emerge in a healthier state.
“There’s so many other factors,” Scrivner added.
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READ MORE: Horror movie fans are better at coping with the coronavirus pandemic [New Scientist]
More on mental health: Researcher: Second COVID Wave May Be Psychologically Devastating