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New Essay on Horror Movies: Can You Fear Your Own Fear?

Lab member Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen digs into the psychology of self-directed fear at the movies in a new essay published on Horror Homeroom.

When we are scared when watching a horror film, who are we scared for? This piece examines arguments that in addition to fearing for the fictional characters, which we obviously do, we also fear for ourselves. I think this is right, but it’s not obvious how it works.


We are clearly not afraid that the monster might actually get us. We don’t suspend our disbelief to the point that we think it’s real. A more subtle argument supposes that that we come to fear our own fearful reactions to the film: We know that we’re about to be shocked, startled, and horrified, and we fearfully anticipate these unpleasant feelings. This, too, I reject. Instead, what we fear when we fear for ourselves are horrific representations—imagery and sounds that shock, startle, and horrify.

Read the whole essay here.