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Recreational Fear Lab is a research unit dedicated to the scientific investigation of frightening leisure activities directed by Marc Malmdorf Andersen and Mathias Clasen at Aarhus University.

Fear is commonly understood to be a negative emotion – an unpleasant emotion you’d prefer to avoid, and one that diminishes your well-being. However, fear can also be an engine in a range of leisure activities, from toddlers being play-chased by caretakers to movie audiences screaming in delight at a horror movie.

The recreational fear lab investigates the conditions under which fear can be fun, social, and inherently meaningful. We use a range of empirical methods and techniques to conduct this investigation. You can read more about our work in this 2024 New York Times essay by lab directors Marc Andersen and Mathias Clasen, and in this primer by Mathias Clasen. For a discussion of the concept of recreational fear, see the blog post "Recreational Fear: What It Is and Why That Matters" by lab member Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen.

If you are interested in participating in our research (as a collaborator, research assistant, or participant), please get in touch.

Our research has been widely featured in national and international news media, including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, Good Morning America, Discover Magazine, Le Monde, GameSpot, StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, National Geographic, Bloomberg, El País, and Atlas Obscura.

We host the Annual Aarhus Workshop on Recreational Fear - the first one was held in 2021, the second one in 2022, and the third one in 2023. Video recordings of the talks at the third workshop are available on our YouTube channel.

You can visit our blog where folks of the lab - friends, collaborators, members, and students - publish essays on the latest in recreational fear.

The lab’s research activities were funded by a generous grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark in the period 2020-2023 as well as a generous grant from the Innovation Fund Denmark in 2022.