Hockey mask, Jason Voorhees
Hockey mask, Jason Voorhees

BOO! The Science of Scary with Mathias Clasen & Heather Berlin

Esparta, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

Why do we like being scared? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice explore the haunting effects of horror and recreational fear with horror scholar and author, Mathias Clasen, and neuroscientist, Heather Berlin, PhD. 

What is recreational fear? We discuss why humans like to be scared and when it starts. Are there personality traits that cause people to like horror? We take a deep dive into how horror affects the body and the mind. Are there benefits to watching horror movies? Can horror movies worsen mental health? We discuss how being prepared for a zombie apocalypse has more than one benefit. 

Can you be immune to getting scared? Or immune to laughter? Why do some people love horror and some people hate it? We break down why someone who spends their life in danger might still want to watch something that puts them in pretend danger. Have we run out of horror movie plots? Why aren’t horror movies about real things we fear? We discuss the jump scare, the cultural status of horror, and whether comedy enhances it. Chuck pitches us his horror movie “Night of the Living Overdue Mortgage Payment.” What’s Neil’s favorite horror movie of all time? 

Next, Heather breaks down the neurological background of fear. Why do people seek fear out? Is there a therapeutic value? You’ll learn about the parasympathetic nervous system, the amygdala, and the origins of our fear response. Also, why are teens in horror movies so dumb? What is the difference between anxiety and fear? Find out why there are no guns in horror movies and The Little Albert Experiment. Can you classically condition someone to have an irrational fear? All that plus, find out what Neil is really afraid of. 

Thanks to our Patrons Jessica Giancola, Jeff States, seth 06, Matthew Ritter, Kelvin Goliday, Kenny PK, and Kaya for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.


In This Episode

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