If you’re into creepy horror movies and TV shows, you’ve probably handled the coronavirus pandemic better than others.
Those movie buffs who love gruesome zombie flicks and other screeches of horror have shown a better preparedness for the “psychological resilience” toward the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.
Coltan Scrivner, a psychologist from the University of Chicago, published an open-access article in a forthcoming issue of the journal ESIC where he explored how movies such as “Contagion” may have helped viewers who had watched the movie before prepare better for the pandemic, which started in March in the US. The study determined that horror-film moviegoers were able to better adapt to odd occasions or behavioral habits exhibited during the pandemic such as panic buying, fake cures, and helping others.
“If it’s a good movie, it pulls you in and you take the perspective of the characters, so you are unintentionally rehearsing the scenarios,” Scrivner told the Guardian. “We think people are learning vicariously. It’s like, with the exception of the toilet paper shortage, they pretty much knew what to buy.”
Researchers asked 310 participants about their moving viewing experience and history. They also quizzed them on how they felt heading into the pandemic by measuring their experience of anxiety, depression, irritability and sleeplessness.
For those who enjoyed horror, they were found to be less upset by the crisis than the majority of participants, but viewers who enjoyed “prepper movies” — where societal structure collapses or fails — had better mental and practical preparation.
Scrivner said that’s because viewers are exposed to it before, so it doesn’t “catch you off-guard so much.”
Mathias Clasen, a psychologist at Aarhus University in Denmark and a co-author of the study, said movies prep us in ways that our imagination can too.
“Our ability to imaginatively inhabit virtual worlds – worlds of our own making, as well as those conveyed by movies and books – is a gift from natural selection; a bit of biological machinery that evolved because it gave our ancestors an edge in the struggle for survival,” Clasen said.
“If you’ve watched a lot of what we call prepper movies, you will have vicariously lived through massive social upheavals, states of martial law, people responding in both prosocial and dangerously selfish ways to a sudden catastrophic event,” he added.