Researchers Identify Fine Line Between a Thrilling and a Traumatizing Haunted House
New research recently accepted for publication in the journal Psychological Science has identified what they call the “Goldilock Zone”, which IFLScience.com describes as “the key to thrills over trauma”.
“By investigating how humans derive pleasure from fear, we find that there seems to be a ‘sweet spot’ where enjoyment is maximized,” Marc Malmdorf Andersen, a researcher at the Interacting Minds Center at Aarhus University and lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “Our study provides some of the first empirical evidence on the relationship between fear, enjoyment, and physical arousal in recreational forms of fear.”
Andersen and his team released a group of 110 participants into a haunted house in Vejle, Denmark, “and studied how they responded to the exhibits and actors with a real-time heart rate monitor.” The researchers watched the participants through close-circuit monitors to obtain qualitative data on how they responded to the frightening stimuli they were exposed to. After the experience, the participants evaluated their level of fright and enjoyment, which the researchers compared to the data they had collected.
The data plotted between self-reported fear and enjoyment formed an inverted U-shape trend, revealing a “sweet spot” for fear when enjoyment is maximized. They found a similar inverted U-shape trend for participants’ heart rate signatures, “suggesting that enjoyment is related to just-right deviations from a person’s normal state, as measured by pulse rates going up and down frequently over a longer period of time, unpleasant sensations often follow.”
In conclusion? It appears science can recognize when we’re enjoying our fear, in order to identify our horror sweet spots.