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Why Do We Like Getting Scared?

Posted at 5:23 AM, Oct 31, 2016

Fear has been helping us mammals survive threats for millions of years. When we see something scary, our natural response is to fight or run away. So why do we keep going back to haunted houses or watching horror movies? Why do we like getting scared?

A lot of it comes down to chemicals in the brain. During a fight-or-flight response, we get a surge of hormones, including dopamine. Depending on where in the brain that dopamine arrives, it can cause feelings of pleasure or feelings of fear.

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And some people's brains are wired to get more of a happy dopamine rush in a tense situation.

You're also more likely to enjoy being scared if you know you're in a safe situation. If your conscious brain has time to realize you're not actually in danger, you get the rush of a fear response, without having to act on it.

This can actually be useful for the development of young minds. Experts say things like scary stories are a safe way for children to experience and understand fear so they'll do better if they experience it for real. Call it practice.

Some psychologists think that's one reason Halloween is so popular. Yes, there are candy and costumes, but there's also a chance to trick your unconscious brain into freaking out.