Experience the haunted house of the human body’s psychological response
Scientists have struggled to study the effects of real threats on people’s physical and mental states because of the ethical and practical constraints of laboratory experiments of human.
In a new study published in the journal Psychological ScienceThe researchers used the haunted house experience to study participants’ subjective and physiological responses to perceived threats in a safe yet immersive environment.
In this haunted house setting, which includes 17 rooms with a variety of threats that make for an uninterrupted experience, the researchers examined how the body responds to different threats depending on the situation. depends on social context (whether there are friends around), characteristics of threats (whether they expect them), and emotionality (whether individuals feel fear).
As Sarah M. Tashjian, of the humanities and social sciences division at the California Institute of Technology and lead author of the study, said: “There are many factors that influence how the human body responds. with threat. “We found that the emotional contagion associated with friends, threat anticipation, and subjective feelings of fear were all related to the body’s response.”
These factors increase a person’s chances of survival under threat, and each has slightly different effects, demonstrating the dynamic nature of the sympathetic nervous system.
To study the effects of scary experiences, previous studies have used scary images, mild electric shocks, or loud noises. In the current study, 156 participants signed up and went to the haunted house in small groups. During the 30-minute experience, they encountered situations such as a speeding car, mimicking a suffocation threat and a series of shots (with bullets) from a firing squad.
Participants wore real-time physiological monitoring wristbands that measured their skin’s electrical activity or sweat-induced changes in the electrical properties of their skin, including electrical conductivity and response. skin.
Before visiting the haunted house, the participants rated their expected level of fear on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, they rated their experience of fear on the same scale. the point. From these data, four factors were examined, including group composition, impending threat, intrinsic fear factor, and the “basic directional response” or sensitivity of the participants. against threats.
Results showed a positive association was found between the number of friends in a group and feelings of euphoria, which reflects the body’s overall physical response to stress or emotion. On average, the more friends the participants had with the haunted house tour, the higher their physical response.
“We interpret this to reflect the spread of fear – if your friends are around, your body picks up on their signal waves and has a higher level of arousal,” says Tashjian. even in the absence of specific panic attacks or startles.” “In the laboratory, it is difficult to study the effects of groups on physiology.”
Studies often involve testing one-on-one or at most pairs of friends. In this study, researchers had the unique opportunity to investigate how being in groups with a wide variety of friends and strangers affects people’s perception of threat. .
The researchers also noted positive associations between surprise attacks, subjective fear, and phasic frequency. Phasic effects are rapid changes the body undergoes in response to an event. Those who felt the most fear in the haunted house had more feedback. “If your body is more adaptive to the threatening event, psychologically you will also feel more fearful,” says Tashjian.
Other findings showed that participants who had a strong initial response to the first room of the haunted house showed increased responses when they visited other rooms. Participants with more frequent feedback in the first room showed a decrease in feedback over time.
“From an outcome perspective, this study is different because we measure many aspects of skin conductance, including slow response, rapid response, frequency of response, and degree of response,” explains Tashjian. “Most studies use only one of these measures, which limits our understanding of how dynamic the sympathetic nervous system is and how different factors exert their effects.” different to biology.”
She added that the study is a “major step forward for cognitive and social psychology,” as it provides further understanding of how “natural contexts,” such as immersive experiences in the haunted house, which affects the body’s response to threats. It’s also important to find out that friends amplify physical responses.
“We show that friends increase overall arousal, that sudden panic attacks produce more responses and higher levels of reactivity in the body than predictable panic attacks,” says Tashjian. , and more frequent bodily responses to feelings of fear,” says Tashjian. “And we demonstrate all of this using a live, immersive, in-depth threat environment.”