Fear: A Psychophysiological Study of Horror Film Viewing




Palmer, Michael Adam

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The horror film industry brings in viewers from all over the world and from every caste of life. But, people differ greatly in their enjoyment of horror movies. The primary purpose of this research is to look at the individual differences in people’s horror film viewing behavior; furthermore, whether certain personality traits predict physiological reactions to horror film viewing. This research was divided into a questionnaire-only condition and a questionnaire-physiology condition. The questionnaire-only condition was reserved for individuals that indicated a dislike for horror films. Those in the questionnaire-physiology condition were presented a 10:33 minute film, between baseline and recovery measures, while physiological data was examined. In between groups analysis, a non-significant trend was exemplified differentiating the two conditions by increased Fearlessness in the questionnaire-physiology condition. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) was the only physiological indicatory that increased significantly from the baseline to the film. Furthermore, increases in SBP were predicted by individual differences in Fearlessness and Coldheartedness. Fearlessness was inversely correlated with SBP; as Fearlessness increased, SBP decreased. And Coldheartedness was positively correlated with Systolic BP; as Coldheartedness increased, Systolic BP increased. These results suggest personality differences in people that watch horror movies and people that do not. Furthermore, it suggests physiological differences within and between those that watch horror films.



fear, psychophysiology, horror, film, movie, individual differences, Honors College


Palmer, M. A. (2008). Fear: A psychophysiological study of horror film viewing (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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