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Science says horror fans are coping really well with the pandemic

Gabbi Garcia and Khalil Ramos for Scout x Globe

For those who’ve spent countless hours binging the “Ju-On” franchise, the training has finally paid off. According to a recent study, horror fans are more likely to handle the pandemic better than so-called scaredy-cats.

Analysts from the Research Program for Media, Communication and Society of Aarhus University surveyed 310 participants on their film and TV interests, connecting them with the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers asked what kind of media participants prefer to watch in their downtime, whether or not they’re into pandemic-related films, then rated their current mental health with statements like “I have been more depressed than usual” or “I feel positive about the future.”

Lo and behold, horror fans received an A+ in the coping test. The results aren’t that surprising to anyone, but it’s less about being desensitized by flicks like “Contagion” and “World War Z,” and more of how they’ve absorbed those situational skills IRL. 

“Although most people go into a scary movie with the intention of being entertained rather than learning something, scary stories present ample learning opportunities,” the study explains. “Fiction allows the audience to explore an imagined version of the world at very little cost. Through fiction, people can learn how to escape dangerous predators, navigate novel social situations, and practice their mind-reading and emotion regulation skills.” 

Fans are mentally prepared

Aside from general horror films, the researchers combined alien invasion, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and zombie genres into one category called the “prepper.” Those who’ve perfectly planned their zombie apocalypse strategies are a step ahead from those who’ve pushed these hypothetical questions aside. According to the study, they’re more mentally prepared and even experienced “fewer negative disruptions” during the last few months. 

“One reason that horror use may correlate with less psychological distress is that horror fiction allows its audience to practice grappling with negative emotions in a safe setting,” they write. “Experiencing negative emotions in a safe setting, such as during a horror film, might help individuals hone strategies for dealing with fear and more calmly deal with fear-eliciting situations in real life.”

Everyone’s horror tolerance differs

But for the horror wimps (hear, hear), don’t jump into IMDB’s most frightening movie and expect to emerge a new person, ready to kick the pandemic’s butt. This might just worsen the condition.

“Of course, if someone hates horror movies, it may simply make it worse,” they wrote. “If emotion regulation skills are what are being improved and helping people deal with the pandemic, it may also be best to watch movies that are scary to you, not movies that are considered the scariest in general.”

Gotcha. Pandemic survival plan no. 154: Watch horror movies, but keep it in level one. Anyone up for a watch party?

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