“I was just wondering if you’d like to accompany me to the cinema?”

Here is an article that I began writing when I was in the first year of University in 2012. I never liked it and never revisited it until this summer. That’s when I edited outside and sent it to the British Psychological Society but thought nothing of it. I then received an email from the BPS saying that they would like to feature my work in their magazine ‘Psych-Talk’. This month, I received my monthly copy of ‘The Psychologist’ and ‘Psych-Talk’ and found that my article was featured on the front cover and my article was the centre-fold piece! I am so happy with this – it is definitely my proudest work to date! 

As the first date anxieties begin to manifest, the details of what film to watch should be the easiest decision. A light-hearted and uplifting film seems the most obvious choice but psychologists may prove this decision completely wrong.

You’ve found yourself stressed out, embarrassed and frequently thinking about calling the whole thing off since asking your beau out on a first date. Then you get told that your choice of film isn’t right for the situation. On a first date it can be expected that many people would initially choose a film that falls into the genre of romance or comedy to spark a love-connection. However, psychologists would argue that this would be the wrong choice. The idea has been put forward that horror films can produce a more substantial, lasting connection than comedy or other genres. The psychology of horror films tend to focus on the negatives, such as: anxiety; insomnia; fear. But let’s focus on the benefits of horror films on a first date and why other, more common, romantic options are not as effective. So throw away those rom-com cinema tickets and let psychology persuade you to replace them with horror tickets.

While watching a horror film, an individual’s senses are heightened. From this, you can make the best impression and be a memorable date for your love-interest. It has been recorded that by placing an individual in a situation that elevates their alertness, an event such as watching a horror movie, the individual is subject to an increase in the release of dopamine in the brain causing the proposed arousal. Films are a form of entertainment therefore it is the enjoyment of fear which stimulates arousal (Oliver & Sanders, 2004). Findings indicate that when fear is caused by an existing environmental factor then this can trigger romantic attraction; due to the surge of arousal leading to a hormonal imbalance. Looking at it this way, the odds are in favour of the horror film for first date success.

Need more convincing before you brave the cinema? There are other benefits to watching a horror movie, including the physical contact that it encourages. The powerful shock factor that is paramount in any good horror causes our bodies to ‘jump’ resulting in a twitch or grip on the closest object to us – your potential partner. Horrors also amplify the gender-stereotypes in us all and are memorable films due to the heightened sensations. Horror films are, by large, more appealing to men than to women but in a mixed relationship can cause the man to act fearless in order to fill his gender-role whereas a woman will appear more scared or vulnerable (Mundorf, Weaver & Zillmann, 1989). This promotes the age old attraction of the strong male protecting his female which in some ways can still dominate our base emotions, such as attraction. Also, what better way to shield your eyes from the onset of blood, violence and gore than into your dates shoulder or jacket? This physical contact can lead to the build-up of a romantic connection and could ensure that crucial second date.

Fear cannot only cause alertness by arousal but also sexual arousal as fear can act as an aphrodisiac. Fear leaves the body sensitive to any new stimulus in its peripheries due to the heightened levels of dopamine which causes the intensification of our senses such as; touch, taste and sight. All this can lead to a more sexual mood whereby you and your date will be much more aware of each other. Furthermore, horror films are the most physiological of all the genres apart from pornography (Badley, 1995). Therefore, even the film asks the audience to concentrate on the body and its form which in itself becomes a sexual reference that your potential suitor will be unable to ignore.

Conclusively, due to the visual stimulation on screen, horror films produce a combination of strong emotions within an individual. This genre works hard in its attempt to manufacture heightened sensations of fear and suspense. These emotions lead to increased sexual arousal on top of the stimulation caused by the already common pornographic nature of horror films. All these factors intensify the pliability of the viewer which will prove perfect on your first cinematic date. Take a chance on the psychology surrounding your first loving interaction with a potential partner and choose horror – just don’t get too scared.

By Lauren Haines

References;

Mundorf, N, Weaver, J & Zillmann, D, (1989), Effects of Gender Roles and Self Perceptions on Affective Reactions to Horror Films, Sex Roles, 20 (11-12), pp. 655 – 673

Badley, L, Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic, Greenwood Publishing Group Inc, Westport (1995) pp. 1 – 203

Oliver, M, B. & Sanders, M, (2004), The Appeal of Horror and Suspense, Ed. Price, S, The Horror Film, Rutgers University Press, pp. 242 – 249

This article can be found in Psych-Talk, Psychology for Students by Students, (Jan 2015), The British Psychological Society, Issue 80, pp. 12-13

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