In a new study currently under review by the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, researchers tested if engagement with certain kinds of movies impacted people’s psychological resilience and preparedness to deal with a pandemic.
They found that those who had consumed horror and pandemic fiction were likely to weather the COVID-19 situation better.
What does the study say?
Authors of the study tested the impact that films had had on 310 individuals’ ability to psychologically deal with a scenario such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. They found that fans of horror films exhibited greater resilience during the pandemic, and fans of genres such as alien-invasion, apocalyptic films and zombie movies exhibited both greater resilience and better preparedness.
They maintain that with regards to the current pandemic, people who spend more time simulating frightening or dystopian experiences will still be impacted, but the psychological toll on them may not be so great as to drastically interfere with their day-to-day life.
The findings are based on a series of questions asked to determine respondents’ interest in a specific film genre, and questions that measures their morbid curiosity. The respondents’ resilience to the pandemic was determined using the Pandemic Psychological Resilience Scale (PPRS).
“Those with more experience engaging with fictional scenarios involving dangerous phenomena, such as morbidly curious individuals, may also be more likely to deal with a pandemic in a more resilient way,” the researchers say.
According to them, the simulation account of fiction allows people to explore possible worlds and try out various strategies and experiences, without the negative consequences of having that experience in real life.
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But how exactly does watching horror films help in becoming more psychologically resilient?
The researchers say that exposing oneself to horror fiction helps the individual grapple with negative emotions in a “safe setting”. “Through fearing the murderer or monster on the screen, audiences have an opportunity to reflect on negative emotions such as fear or disgust and practise emotion regulation skills,” the study says.
Even so, it does not mean that watching horror films can help one practise dealing with negative emotions or offer strategies for “enjoying life” amid negative experiences. Rather, a history of watching horror films overtime may help in building emotion regulation skills, which can be utilised to lessen the psychological distress that accompanies dysphoric events.
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