Hello horror movie junkies around the world. Trick or Treat! Since today is All Hallows Eve, I have a treat for you. I’m sure that you’ve all seen the AMC Fearfest marathon on TV and some of you (myself included) are guilty of binge watching it for twenty hours straight. Chucky was on last night and, to be honest, it scared the shit out of me. It always seems to be the horror movies with creepy children in them that get to me the most. And I’m sure that it’s not just me. Horror movies with creepy children scare other people more than any typical horror movie does. But I have a secret for you. It isn’t fear that adds this extra feeling of horror in these movies. It’s cognitive dissonance.
Most people on Halloween, or really any other day (since it isn’t just around Halloween when we watch horror movies) don’t really think twice about their fear when watching horror movies. When watching horror movies, though, we find ourselves doing weird things to try to feel better. Most people reach for the closest thing for comfort. It doesn’t have to be a human being. It can be a pillow, a stuffed animal, or the remote control. We resort to strange habits to make us feel less fear. One of these habits, and I know I’m not the only one guilty of this, is squinting your eyes. Now why do you think we do that? Well I think that it’s in an effort to protect ourselves from that cognitive dissonance in some situations. Cognitive dissonance for those of you who don’t know if a feeling you get when you are presented an idea or evidence that goes against what you believe. Most people have experienced this feeling at one time or another, but if you haven’t just ask someone who has and then will tell you how uncomfortable of a feeling it is. When we watching a horror movie with a scary child, though we might expect that child to be a monster, there is something inside us that knows that it isn’t right. That children are supposed to be cute little angels, not vicious monsters. We squint our eyes to blur the line between monster and human to prevent this feeling of cognitive dissonance. It has been proven that the effects in your brain and on your body when you experience cognitive dissonance is near identical to when you experience fear.
Halloween is a unique time of year when it’s socially acceptable to scare the pants off of people. Messed up people like you and I find so much pleasure in the fear of others, yet when we feel fear it is very uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing to admit it. So just a tip, if anyone is making fun of you for being scared of something, just tell them that you’re not scared, you’re just experiencing cognitive dissonance. It may not help, but it definitely sounds cool.