Framed in fun
Jason Conover, Intermountain Healthcare licensed clinical social worker, believes one reason people like being scared recreationally is because it’s framed in fun.
“In a haunted house, we know it isn’t real, so we enjoy being scared. We laugh after the danger passes, or gasp, then laugh because it was scary and we are thrilled,” he explained. “I think we’re a little bit inhibited emotionally and this may give people a really fun outlet without drugs or alcohol – just a fun, emotional, social outlet.”
According to Jason, we’re able to experience a wide range of emotions quickly in a haunted attraction.
“You go in, get scared, kind of get back to peace, get scared again, and then get back to peace,” he explained. “People may come out of it a little tired because they’ve done that tense and relax cycle quite a bit.”
Another reason we enjoy being scared is because making it through a haunted house or a scary movie can give us a boost of confidence.
“I think that it’s a challenge,” Jason said. “We’re apprehensive, but we rise up to that challenge, and there’s kind of a victory associated with doing hard, scary things.”
Jason said this sense of accomplishment seems to carry more weight with friends, which is why you don’t see many people going solo to a haunted house. He thinks it could be because there isn’t anyone to witness our bravery or accomplishment, but there’s also the fact that most thing are more fun with friends.
It’s common to see couples choose a haunted attraction for a date night, and now there’s a scientific reason behind it. According to Jason, it’s because a partner can seem more attractive afterward. A study by Meston and Frohlich shows if you have a person rate the attractiveness of another person before a scary roller coaster ride and then repeat the process after the two experience the ride together, the attractiveness score will actually be higher post-scare!
Jason said some experts believe hormones, primarily adrenaline, can intensify the human experience shared with another person.
“When you go through really hard things with people, you tend to bond. And that’s something I would be conscious of. If our whole relationship is built on being scared, that can be a roller coaster of a relationship,” he said.
Jason points out that while many people enjoy being scared, there are some who definitely don’t. Often people who don’t like being scared have experienced a traumatic event, and sometimes the haunted attraction seems too close to a real trauma to be enjoyable. Anxiety can also play a role in why some people don’t enjoy being scared.
“If they feel like a haunted house isn’t a place where they could have control and they’re already too jacked up on anxiety, that’s something they wouldn’t be interested in,” Jason said. While a boost in emotions, confidence and attraction sounds good to many people, it’s important to respect the feelings of friends and family who might not want to enter a scary space.