Even as an adult, I have spent many nights wide awake, contemplating whether there is a demonic presence in my closet or under the bed. I have also driven my husband to the brink of madness after insisting that he keep the lamp on while my mind wanders to dreamland. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I will turn on all the lights if I even dare to venture to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Now I am not necessarily paranoid, but these sort of dreadful sleepless feelings happen after I watch a horror movie. Whether I’ve witnessed a disturbing paranormal possession, sat alongside a group of teens running from a psycho killer, or planned a massive military attack against an extraterrestrial, it freaks me out. Almost every single horror movie keeps me up after viewing and even if it’s short lived, the sleep I get that night isn’t exactly peaceful.
However, after all these years of being harassed by fictional demons in my sleep, I have never given up watching horror movies. In fact, I have done the complete opposite and have delved even further into the genre to relish in the delightfully terrifying movies that it has to offer. But honestly, this sounds insane! Why would I keep watching films that are distressing enough for me to question whether something is lurking around the corner? Why would I subject myself to this psychological and emotional torture repeatedly? Why? Well, there is actual science behind it. I might seem like the village idiot for continuing to love this genre, but the general idea is that if you love to party, you love to scream.
If you have ever attended a Psychology course, you have sat through at least one lesson about extroverts and introverts. But just in case, here is a brief refresher: Extroverts are more social, risk taking, and impulsive compared to their more quiet, contemplating, long term planning counterparts So, what you need to know is that extroverts are outwardly focused while introverts are inwardly focused. But for today’s purposes we are more concerned with extroverts. The reason why extroverts are concerned with what is going on around them starts in their brain, which is actually in a natural state of being under stimulated. To reach the optimum peak of arousal, extroverts seek they need. I, myself, am an extrovert and after talking to fellow horror lover have realized that the majority of them are extroverts as well. Pursuing the adrenaline rush of constantly viewing horror films falls right in line with this reasoning. We seek the excitement and deal with potentially being terrorized by our overly active imaginations so we can obtain the proper amount of arousal in our brains.Extroverts have more blood flow in their temporal lobe and posterior thalamus, parts of the brain that are connected to the sensory and emotional aspects of life. These areas of the brain are known collectively as the reward centers and because of the increased blood flow make extroverts more sensitive to dopamine derived from heart pounding experiences. Dopamine itself provides pleasure to the brain after such events as eating, having sex, or skydiving.
Everyone will receive relatively the same amount of dopamine for similar activities, but extroverts tend to experience this flood of hormones at a higher level. This aspect of the extrovert-dopamine relationship is one of the many reasons why extroverts are more likely to drink, smoke, or even become adrenaline junkies. They also tend to party a little more than the average person. So, although I will repeatedly check my closet for that damn Annabelle doll, I still lavish in the dopamine that is flooding my brain when watching a horror film or engaging in extreme behavior.
Although being extroverted isn’t the only reason horror fans enjoy horror movies on a psychological level, the correlation does exist in many cases. The idea that watching a horror movie is rewarding to brain even if it disturbs the rest of your day, night, or week is an interesting one. An extrovert doesn’t receive enough stimuli and is more sensitive to rising dopamine levels. As such, what better way to supplement that than a horror film? So, keep watching these movies and if a naysayer raises an eyebrow at you, kindly explain that you are an extrovert and horror films provide you with a natural (and safe) way of relishing dopamine levels. And to the introverted horror fans out there, welcome to the dark side!