Cowan Palace: Folks Feeling Fear For Fun

This week Ashley scratches the scary surface of spooky sensation seekers.


Did I scare you?

Ah, probably not. But I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of fear. And for whatever reason, it tends to be a sensation so many folks tend to seek out. Especially as we get closer to Halloween. Americans alone spend millions of dollars getting their scare on; from horror movies to costumes to haunted houses. All for moments of increased heart rates, fast breathing, tense muscles, and focused attention. People often thrive from being pushed into an extreme and riding the adrenaline rush. I’ve personally been away on vacation this past week and have sought out any and all thrill rides. From fantastic drops to exhilarating speeds, I’m into it (the attached picture is legit). So I thought it may be an interesting topic to investigate a bit more.

This is legit FEAR.

This is legit FEAR.

Perhaps the fright fascination comes from exploring an experience that doesn’t stem from typical daily life and then being able to survive it to tell the tale. While it seems obvious most people tend to search for experiences that bring them pleasure over pain, the concept of fear is a little more unique. One-third of the population try to stay away completely from “scary material” while one-tenth actively yearn to be scared silly. In fact, I read about a company in New York where customers can pay to be kidnapped. For the very reasonable price of $4,000 you can be captured and confined! You can customize your own terror inducing experience to create your very own nightmare. Cool, right?

There’s lot of debate regarding what kind of material can manufacture the sweatiest palms and fastest heart rate but ultimately scientists have a limited number of theories regarding seeking out fear. Some believe that folks long to experience both a positive and a negative emotion at once. If your brain can identify that there is no real chance of harm while still feeling the thrill, you ultimately can have your cake and eat it too. Others think people long to be horrified in order to find a larger source of euphoria when it’s over.

The idea of “enjoying fear” may actually be an evolutionary development as it’s an experience that humanity has continued to pursue. While our ancestors were tested by nature and motivated by survival, our modern day representatives, complete with the same “fight or flight” instincts, continue to yearn for those sensations and then go home to safety. Research also suggests that along with returning to a comfortable and “less scary” place, you can take a few lingering feelings of heightened arousal. For those that tend to enjoy the horror genre, those feelings get to play in the part of the brain that controls perception, memory, and consciousness. So basically, you’re more likely to hold on to some of those positive emotions and long for them in the future.

But before you start planning your next date to see something spooky in order to reap those hormonal benefits, you should know these feelings could be complicated and different for everyone. If your crush tends to be super aware of room temperatures, highly empathetic, or even just overly sensitive to something like an itchy tag on a shirt, they may be prone to suffering from unsolicited stimuli and retain only the adverse effects of something like a scary movie. And since those negative emotions are stored in a separate part of your brain to where your positive emotions are, they can be notably tricky to eclipse. On the other hand, playas, studies have shown that many ladies long for physical intimacy from someone who can display strength when they’re feeling scared. So pick wisely.

In any case, as Halloween draws closer, it’s interesting to think about celebrating a holiday that flourishes in fear. And for me, I’m just coming out of honoring my birthday by screaming my head off on one Orlando ride after another. But how about you? Are you a thrill-seeker with any big Halloween plans or are you planning to stay home and eat candy? I’d love to hear your thoughts over tricks and treats.