Show Details

Seeking Out Fear

October 28, 2016

The science of human fear is much more complex than is commonly thought.



Enjoyable fear.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Fear and anxiety are negative sensations that people tend to avoid. In fact, they exist to help us avoid threatening situations. So why do we sometimes seek out fear-inducing experiences for fun— especially around Halloween? New York University neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux explains that being thrilled and excited and being terrified share many of the same physiological reponses.

JOSEPH LEDOUX (New York University):

You’ve got adrenaline and noradrenaline being released, and cortisol and all these things are impacting your brain. But in the situation that you’re in, you’re interpreting that in terms of elation or excitement, rather than in terms of something awful happening to you.


Of course, adrenaline feels more pleasurable to some people than others; for some, no matter how safe the environment, the negative sensations from viewing a horror movie or riding a roller coaster will outweigh any thrills. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon