ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – From films and haunted houses to costumes and lawn decorations, Americans spend countless dollars each year in an attempt to scare ourselves.
Fear is generally perceived as negative and yet we grasp for it, in large part due to the physiological jolt it gives us.
Dr. Randi Mozenter, a clinical psychologist on staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, says we like being scared because the response is stimulating and exciting, like riding a giant rollercoaster while, at the same time, we know we’re safe.
“We know we’re going to be scared. We know what to expect, generally, even though we don’t know the details. It’s a safe way to get our heart pumping and get that huge physical rush,” she explains. “It’s the kind of physical rush we get with the fight-or-flight reaction when we’re in a dangerous, stressful situation except we know that a haunted house is safe.”
Mozenter says that physiological response, and the understanding that what we’re seeing is ultimately safe, can depend largely on the participant’s age. That’s why she advises parents to ensure the haunted attraction they visit is age appropriate.
Most importantly, Mozenter says, know your child’s personality and be aware of how they react to being frightened.