Tips to Live By

PODCAST: The Science of Fear — Why We Love (and Hate) Horror

Oct. 31, 2023

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It's Halloween, which caps a month of people watching their favorite scary movies, braving haunted houses and generally celebrating all things spooky. Is it normal to seek out things that frighten us? Aren't we wired to avoid them instead? The mix of chemicals the brain releases is no different whether the fear is real or fictitious so what accounts for the difference between getting a rush and feeling terrorized? In this episode, we talk to a neuroscientist and Halloween enthusiast about what happens in the brain when we're scared, the many distinct types of fear and why people either love or loathe the horror genre.

Interviewer: Todd Ackerman

Expert: Dr. Philip Horner, Neuroscientist

Notable topics covered:

  • The appeal of a holiday dedicated to curdling blood and tingling spines
  • Horror's function: distraction, adrenaline release, overcoming fears
  • Safety in numbers: Why we like watching a scary movie in a crowded theater
  • Why humans, uniquely among species, are afraid of the dark
  • Common phobias: From heights to public speaking to spiders to needles
  • Children's literature: Why many classic fairy tales are so dark
  • Fear's physical manifestations: Is it unhealthy to be terrified?
  • What fight or flight situations and existential anxiety have in common
  • Some classic scientific studies of fear
  • Is that seemingly universal fear innate or learned?
  • The woman whose brain condition has made her fearless. Literally.
  • Nightmares: Why things that didn't scare us in life do in our dreams

Like what you hear?

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Categories: Tips to Live By