Films that represent the end of the world or post-apocalyptic scenarios – so-called "Prepper" films – have helped viewers to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study.
Psychologists have found that people who have seen films about social chaos and the collapse of the global order are better prepared for the virus.
Fans of "Prepper" genres, including alien invasion, apocalyptic and zombie films, showed a higher level of resilience and willingness in experiments.
Those who had watched horror films in the past few months also showed greater psychological resilience to the virus pandemic.
The researchers say exposure to terrifying fiction enables the audience to practice coping strategies that can be beneficial in real situations.
Viewers "learn on behalf" and "try the scenarios unintentionally" when watching films like "Contagion" and "28 Days Later" as well as television programs like "The Walking Dead".
Cillian Murphy in a scene from 28 Days Later, a zombie apocalypse film from 2002. Fans of pandemic and other types of disaster films can practice effective coping strategies that can be beneficial in real situations
"Our ability to creatively inhabit virtual worlds – worlds that we have created ourselves and those that are conveyed through films and books – is a gift from natural selection," said study author Mathias Clasen, psychologist at the University of Aarhus in Denmark , towards the Guardian.
& # 39; [It is] a bit of biological machinery that developed because it gave our ancestors an advantage in the struggle for survival.
"If you've watched many of the so-called Prepper films, you've witnessed massive social upheavals, martial law, and people who are pro-social and dangerously selfish about a sudden catastrophic event."
"Compared to someone who has never simulated the end of the world, you are in a better place because you have this proxy experience."
TV shows and films were seen as predictors of the current pandemic. This study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and examined whether previous and current engagement with relevant media, including horror and pandemic films, was associated with greater willingness and psychological resilience
Philosophers and scientists have long been concerned with the question of why people are looking for cruel and catastrophic situations for entertainment, says the research team.
It has already been speculated that such behavior could be a form of catharsis or that the excitement caused by terrifying stimuli is “inherently pleasant”.
However, these experiences can serve as simulations of actual experiences from which individuals can gather important and possibly important information.
Researching dangerous situations in imaginary worlds is also a far safer alternative to researching these situations in the real world. From a biological point of view, they help prepare our emergency and fight or flight reactions.
In particular, films about pandemics offer viewers inexpensive access to information that is difficult or dangerous to find in the real world.
Customers take some of the last paper towels in a Costco store in New Jersey, USA, during the pandemic. Pandemic films deal with possible contingencies of a virus pandemic and the question of whether it "triggers cooperative or selfish behavior in others".
Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon in the 2011 film Contagion. The sight of empty shelves during the coronavirus pandemic seemed to recall scenes from the film
They deal with questions such as whether the spread of a virus triggers cooperative or selfish behavior in others – like stocking toilet paper and other important things – or whether the institutions will continue to provide services as usual.
If a pandemic ever happened, this information could be very valuable as it could lead to better preparedness and mental resilience, the researchers said.
The team used the 2011 film Contagion, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon and Jude Law, and shows as an example the spread of a virus that is transmitted by breath droplets.
Contagion rose from the 270th most-viewed Warner Bros film to the second most popular Warner Bros film three months after Covid-19 broke out.
It quickly became one of the most streamed films in America, presumably because it "provides a realistic example of what happens during a virus pandemic," the team said.
Gwyneth Paltrow with the 2011 film Contagion, in which doctors and medical researchers search for a highly contagious, deadly virus on their way from Hong Kong to the United States
In their study, the psychologists asked 310 people whether they considered themselves fans of films and TV shows from 10 genres.
The 10 types of films and TV shows were horror, zombie, psychological thriller, supernatural, apocalyptic / post-apocalyptic, science fiction, alien invasion, crime, comedy and romance.
Only the Prepper and Horror genre variables were of interest for analysis, and the other genre variables were used to mask the intent of the study.
The team also measured levels of psychological resilience – "the ability to have subjective positive experiences in a difficult time" – and mental and physical readiness during the pandemic, which was assessed using questionnaires.
As predicted, fans of prepper genres were better prepared for the pandemic and experienced fewer negative disturbances in their lives during the pandemic.
Participants who had never seen a pandemic film felt significantly less prepared for the pandemic than those who had seen more or more while the horror pandemic was associated with less psychological stress.
Participants who had never seen a pandemic film felt less prepared for the pandemic than those who had seen several or more pandemic films. Average readiness shown by the black spot
"Our results support the idea that fiction can be a useful simulation of both specific scenarios in pandemic films and generally fearful scenarios in horror films," reports the team in its study, which is reviewed in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.
The analysis also showed that morbidly curious people experienced greater positive resilience during the pandemic.
Morbid curiosity is typically described as an interest or curiosity about unpleasant things related to death and was associated with positive resilience and interest in pandemic films.
Morbidly curious people were more interested in morbid information about coronaviruses and more in watching pandemic and virus films and television programs.
Correlation between morbid curiosity and interest in watching a movie or television show from film and television genres during the coronavirus pandemic compared to usual
They also reported more interest than non-morbidly curious people to learn specifically about the morbid aspects of the virus, such as photos of what the coronavirus does to the body.
Coltan Scrivner, psychologist at the University of Chicago and co-author, will further investigate the connection between pathological curiosity and media preferences in a separate web post.
In recent months, Scrivner has found a greater correlation between pathological curiosity and the interest in watching a pandemic virus film or TV show compared to other genres like romance and action.