New Research Gives Clues About Why We Love Horror Movies; BYU Professors Discover Personalities of the Horror Movie Fans

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There are three basic groupings of horror movie fans, the adrenaline junkies who love the gore and the jump scares; the detectives who love to follow the story and solve the mystery, and the the ‘white-knucklers’ are the people who get really scared watching horror movies, but love the rush of adrenalin and feelings of excitement they have while watching the movie.

Horror movie fans are much more than just rebellious, unempathetic males who love thrills and adrenalin rushes.

New research may shed light on the psychology behind people’s love of horror films, according to Brigham Young University professors Dr. Tom Robinson and Dr. Clark Callahan and graduate student Keith Evans. Creating a new model of personality categorization, Robinson, Callahan, & Evans believe that people who enjoy the horror genre are either looking for a thrill, a mental exercise, or just a chance to be scared.

After discussions with various faculty and students, the authors began to wonder why people love to watch movies that are disturbing, creepy, disgusting, and horrifying. Using research method called Q-sorting, the researches conducted interviews and tests with a number of young adults to determine what draws them to the horror genre. Their findings are groundbreaking because they determined that horror movie fans are made up of much more than a rebellious, unempathetic male who loves thrills and adrenalin rushes.

“We discovered three basic groupings of horror movie fans,” Robinson explained. “There are those adrenaline junkies who love the gore and the jump scares but there is also a group we called the detectives who love watching horror movies to try to figure them out. They watch as if they are trying to solve the puzzle. They want to stay one step ahead of the killer.” The final group was the most complex to describe. “The third group or the ‘white-knucklers’ are the people who get really scared watching horror movies, the movies cause them physical stress and they actually have nightmares.” Robinson continued. “The reason this group is so interesting is that despite all the negative effects they feel from watching horror movies they continue to watch them.” The white knucklers are willing to risk the pain these movies cause for the rush of adrenalin and feelings of excitement they have while watching the movie.”

This study breaks down the belief that all horror movie fans are the same. For example the results revealed that within these groups, men and women were equally represented, which breaks the traditional conception that men love horror movies more than women. “These new findings help us better understand why we choose the media we do,” Robinson said. Horror movies can actually cater to a number of different individuals by providing the pure adrenalin rush, a complex story that engages the mind, and the excitement brought on by the horror.

By knowing what groups exist in the horror movie audience Hollywood can better market horror movies to each of these specific groups.

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