ISLAMABAD-Chainsaw-wielding maniacs and brain-munching zombies are common tropes in horror films and haunted houses, which, in normal years, are popular Halloween-season destinations for thrill seekers. 

But what makes such fearsome experiences so compelling, and why do we actively seek them out in frightful recreational settings? New research accepted for publication in the journal Psychological Science reveals that horror entertains us most effectively when it triggers a distinct physical response—measured by changes in heart rate—but is not so scary that we become overwhelmed. 

That fine line between fun and an unpleasant experience can vary from person to person. “By investigating how humans derive pleasure from fear, we find that there seems to be a ‘sweet spot’ where enjoyment is maximized,” said Marc Malmdorf Andersen, a researcher at the Interacting Minds Center at Aarhus University and lead author of the paper. “Our study provides some of the first empirical evidence on the relationship between fear, enjoyment, and physical arousal in recreational forms of fear.”