If you’ve asked yourself why some of your friends aren’t as freaked out as you during this pandemic, their movie choices may have something to do with it.
Researchers at University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, and Aarhus University in Denmark recently released a study (not yet peer-reviewed) that found horror fans and the morbidly curious are more psychologically resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“An empirically supported explanation for why people engage in frightening, specifically fictional experiences is that these experiences can act as simulations of actual experiences from which individuals can gather information and model possible worlds,” the study states. “In a simulated experience, such as an oral story, a novel or a film, one can explore possible futures or phenomena, gathering information about what the real version of such an experience would look like, and learn the relative success of certain actions and attitudes.”
For example, Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion saw a massive resurgence in popularity when COVID-19 began to spread significantly in the U.S. in early March. But, as the study points out, cinematic simulations don’t have to be as realistic as Contagion. The wide breadth of “prepper” genres—alien invasions, apocalyptic scenarios, zombies, etc.—can be equally beneficial in mental preparedness during a pandemic.
“Even when the situation in a story may differ literally from real life events, it can be illustrative of a larger point about some phenomenon,” the study states. “Indeed, the most important part of many stories may not be their literal similarity to real life, but the meaning that can be extracted from them and applied to real world situations.”
Read the study here.