On 1 Octobre 2020, the Dutch edition of Vice magazine claimed that fans of horror movies show better psychological resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. It based its claim on a study conducted by the university of Chicago, Pennsylvania State university and Aarhus university. The claim turns out to be mostly true.
The study was conducted on 310 participants and occurred in April 2020. This was one month after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a global pandemic. The study shows that fans of horror moviers are more likely to develop a certain resilience and better preparedness during a pandemic. The hypothesis of this study is that exposure to frightening, fictional stories allow audiences to practice effective coping strategies. These strategies can be beneficial when a similar situation occurs in the real world.
When looking at this study from a psychological standpoint you will find that this claim is mostly true. The claim can be traced back to the counterconditioning effect. Counterconditioning is part of behavior analysis. This involves the conditioning of unwanted behavior. In its turn, this unwanted behavior will be conditioned, making the effect weaker or in some cases even positive. We checked this field of study with psychologist Olaf Spittaels, who confirmed this effect.
Olaf Spittaels also explained the effect in this context. He clarified how this effect works exactly. If you look at the counterconditioning effect in this context you can easily correlate this effect with watching horror movies. Our brain can sense the danger and lethality of the virus. This will result in us being more aware and tense about the situation. When placing something threatening in our daily lives you get more anxious about this certain thing. This causes us to be more anxious about that certain situation. By experiencing fear in a controlled environment, your brain will put this response in perspective. By doing this a lot, the fear you felt initially will eventually become less apparent of might eventually disappear completely.
When you frequently watch horror movies you will eventually become less susceptible to the fears connected to the genre. For example, watching a movie about a pandemic. Watching these types of movies will show you how other would handle this particular situation. The actors all face this fictional situation in different ways. By seeing how they react, you will actually learn how you should react in a similar situation. The information given in these types of movies can prove quite valuable when that same situation would happen in real life. By typing a similarity to the real world in these stories, the viewers will start imagining this happening in a real-life situation.
When you take all this information and look at the claim, you can conclude this claim is mostly true. Fears are experienced differently by different people. Some only need to be scared a couple of times for the effect to start working, others will never feel the effects of this experiment. However, this study does prove that people who have seen pandemics happen on the big screen are more resilient and less affected by the pandemic. Therefor this claim is mostly true.