Go ahead, give Annabelle a hug.
Whether we’re talking about books or movies, fans of the horror genre are widely perceived as less empathetic and compassionate than non-horror fans.
This is because of the nature of the content they consume.
Horror films often portray violence and gore, which many thought could potentially desensitize viewers to the suffering of others.
Science of Horror and Morbid Curiosity expert Coltan Scrivner devised a 3-part study that showed the world has no reason to fear the average horror fan — in most contexts, anyway.
The first experiment in Coltan’s study confirmed that people do generally perceive those who enjoy dark movies as deficient in prosocial traits.
Because of their morbid interests, horror fans are seen as less empathetic, compassionate, and kind.
Ouch. It hurts, you know…
In the second experiment, the findings showed that enjoyment of horror movies either had nothing to do with one’s level of empathy and compassion or the variables positively correlated to each other — meaning that the higher the enjoyment, the higher the levels for the two personality traits as well.
“In fact, those who enjoyed horror more overall tended to be higher in cognitive empathy and lower in coldheartedness”, the results show.
Nothing to fear, see…
Finally, the third experiment in the study took a look at the relationship between the enjoyment of five subgenres of horror and acts of compassion.
The participants were asked to play a dictator game — they were given a bonus for their participation in the study and were told that due to the funding, the research team would not be able to offer a bonus to everyone enrolled. Donations could however be made anonymously for the less fortunate participants.
No relation was found between the enjoyment of the five subgenres and the amount a participant decided to donate.
As a horror fan myself, I am glad that someone finally took the scientific route to prove that one’s interest in the genre alone is not related to any antisocial personality traits.
However, I also need to mention that in studies such as this one, we’re mainly talking about the average, general audience of the genre.
It is also highly likely that individuals with core antisocial traits would also be attracted to horror movies and darkness of all sorts.
What makes the difference, among other things, is what drives the interest and how much of one’s existence is dedicated to making the darkness a reality — for themselves or for others.
This being said, now we can all binge on Netflix’s collection of horror films, guilt-free.
One more thing. Coltan’s website includes a Morbid Curiosity Survey that you can take for free and verify how your own interest in the macabre measures against that of other all-things-horror fans.
It’s fun, and you would also help scientific research in this new field.
Thank you for reading.