DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2022.0425 ISSN: 0962-8436

Surfing uncertainty with screams: predictive processing, error dynamics and horror films

Mark Miller, Ben White, Coltan Scrivner
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology

Despite tremendous efforts in psychology, neuroscience and media and cultural studies, it is still something of a mystery why humans are attracted to fictional content that is horrifying, disgusting or otherwise aversive. While the psychological benefits of horror films, stories, video games, etc. has recently been demonstrated empirically, current theories emphasizing the negative and positive consequences of this engagement often contradict one another. Here, we suggest the predictive processing framework may provide a unifying account of horror content engagement that provides clear and testable hypotheses, and explains why a ‘sweet spot’ of fear and fun exists in horror entertainment.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Art, aesthetics and predictive processing: theoretical and empirical perspectives’.

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