Can Horror Movies Better Prepare you for a Pandemic?

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Are you a fan of horror movies with dark, twisted endings? Do your friends describe you as morbid? Do you feel an indescribable thrill when watching end-of-the-world movies? Well, looks like you might be in luck!

According to researchers at the University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, and Aarhus University, fans of horror and disaster movies cope better with real-life pandemics. 

During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, viewers around the world seemed to be obsessed with an American thriller called Contagion. The movie was based around a virus transmitted by respiratory droplets, that had started a pandemic and left public health officials in a frenzy in trying to control its spread. Despite being almost a decade old, in March 2020 it became the seventh popular film on iTunes and the most viewed on HBO Now. This was largely due to the similarities between the real-life pandemic situation and the one shown in the movie.

Researchers, therefore, set out to test the hypothesis whether morbid curiosity, an interest in death or violence, was associated with greater psychological resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also tested whether fans of “prepper” genres (alien-invasion, apocalyptic, and zombie films) exhibited greater preparedness during real-life pandemics. 

Using Prolific, an online recruitment tool, researchers surveyed 310 participants in the United States. The participants were made to fill out questionnaires about their past and current interest in pandemic movies, preparedness for the pandemic, and, psychological resilience. Since it’s hard to measure psychological resilience, researchers collected patients’ reports of positive experiences during the pandemic. 

While the study is yet to be peer-reviewed, it is interesting to note that fans of horror films were seen to exhibit greater resilience during the pandemic and, fans of prepper genres were found to be more resilient and prepared during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be argued that these movies act as a simulation for the viewers and psychologically prepares them for experiences that can happen in real life. Morbid curiosity was also seen to be associated with positive resilience during the pandemic. 

According to the study, “frightening fictions allow audiences to practice effective coping strategies that can be beneficial in real-world situations.” 

References:

Scrivner, C., Johnson, J. A., Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, J., & Clasen, M. (2020, June 30). Pandemic Practice: Horror Fans and Morbidly Curious Individuals Are More Psychologically Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/4c7af

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