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What is the allure of fear?

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The allure of fear generally refers to how humans might seek out scary situations. People go to haunted houses or see scary movies because they want to be afraid. Science says that when we feel frightened, we release dopamine, the chemical linked to happiness and pleasure. The allure of fear can also be used to make a greater point on a larger societal issue.

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The allure of fear generally refers to how some humans like to be afraid. Yes, there are a fair amount of people who like to feel horrified and seek out books or movies or other avenues that are intended to cause them terror.

You might think about the popularity of haunted houses. Why do people visit such frightening places? Well, we might say that the fear they experience there is attractive or alluring.

Again, the popularity of scary movies, eerie TV shows, and haunted houses seems to support the notion of the "allure of fear."

Science, too, has something to say about why humans court fear. When our bodies are scared, they tend to release dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical connected to happiness. You could say that when we're scared, we're enjoying it.

Another way to think of the "allure of fear" is to think of how fear is used in movies and TV shows to make a greater point on a societal issue. Think about how the horror movie Get Out employs scary movie tropes to get us thinking about racism. You might also want to look at how the scary movie It Follows employs fear to get us thinking about STDs.

If you wanted to do a more complete review, you might want to look into the history of the Gothic novel. Before movies and TV, people were finding their thrills in an array of frightening books.

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It is generally taken for granted that readers will enjoy comic and sentimental writing, since these types of literature evoke feelings which people enjoy in real life. Fear, by contrast, is normally disagreeable to experience. The fact that young children know this but many continue to revel in Halloween and horror films, creates a paradox.

It is worth noting first that the allure of fear is by no means universal. Edgar Allan Poe is one of America's most controversial authors, eliciting admiration from many but also vitriol from a substantial number of critics and readers (Harold Bloom was particularly scathing in his remarks). Even those who do like horror stories and films do not seem to enjoy the actual experience of being frightened. Glenn Sparks, a professor of communication at Purdue University, refers to the notion of "excitation transfer." When the tense feeling of being frightened wears off, it is replaced with intense relief and even a sense of triumph. This can even be addictive, which is why certain people continually seek out frightening experiences.

To anyone who has studied classical tragedy, "excitation transfer" probably sounds very much like Aristotle's concept of "catharsis," the purging of emotions by the arousal of pity and (not incidentally) terror. The two feelings and the two genres are clearly linked.

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