While horror and post-apocalyptic movies are mostly fiction, they can have significant effects on our real lives. A recent study has shown that people who enjoy movies from the two genres cope better, physically and mentally, during pandemics.
A renowned psychologist, Coltan Scrivner, told media sources that people, while watching post-apocalyptic movies, unintentionally rehearse the scenes. Scrivner is a specialist on morbid curiosity at the University of Chicago.
Bringing the current pandemic into view, he added that, except for the shortage of toilet papers, prepper film fans knew exactly what to expect. Scrivner also authored the preprint study. The research paper has not been peer-reviewed yet but was published in PsyArXiv.
While zombies and alien invasions may not happen anytime soon, our world feels pretty dystopic right now. And movies that deal with such themes open our imaginary faculties to such possibilities. In the process, we learn how to navigate through such situations, when given a chance.
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Post-Apocalyptic Movies Might Have Prepared You For The COVID-19 Pandemic
To prove this, researchers gathered data from 310 people. They asked the volunteers what genre of movies they liked, and how well they were coping with the current pandemic. They also asked if they were experiencing any irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness, or depression.
As expected, a great number of horror movie fans showed tremendous resilience during a time of crisis. Moreover, people who preferred post-apocalyptic movies exhibited, not only resilience but also a greater level of preparedness.
And interestingly enough, when the COVID-19 pandemic started getting serious, many with morbid curiosity were drawn to Contagion. The movie deals with how a viral disease leads to a pandemic. These people also showed a higher level of resilience at this time of crisis.
Psychologists monitored other factors like sex, age, and personality traits. Through it all, research suggests that frightening events, even imaginary, helps prepare people for the worst.
Many psychologists believe that watching post-apocalyptic movies are like mental exercises. We unconsciously take in all the relevant possibilities and apply it to real situations. How conflicts arise and the way govt or private institutions behave are just some of the examples one could learn from such mental simulations.
Fiction Can Encourage Emotion Regulation
The researchers further said that people with morbid curiosity gather all the information needed to deal with dystopian situations. And in some ways, it could help them cope with real-life crises.
A surge in streaming Contagion could also mean people seeking sensation. This sort of behavior is connected to people looking for higher enjoyment and arousal from the horror genre.
The study revealed that horror fans coped better during this crisis. While they exhibited less mental distress, they did not exhibit greater preparedness or resilience.
And people who preferred post-apocalyptic movies showed both greater resilience and a higher level of preparedness. This could also mean that they are extremely vigilant. Such behavior can lead to long-term psychological repercussions.
The researchers explained that fiction can simulate distressing situations and encourage a greater degree of emotion regulation.