Purdue professor: Halloween offers safe dose of fear and fun

Credit: Aotaro / Flickr Commons
Credit: Aotaro / Flickr Commons

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Halloween is right around the corner and along with trick-or-treating and scary costumes, it also offers thrills to many.

In less than 24 hours, trick-or-treaters will be going door to door, hoping to take away as much candy as possible before the night is over. However, Halloween isn’t just about trick-or-treating.

People of all ages take part in the tradition, whether it’s watching a horror movie, going through a haunted house, or even dressing up as a zombie.

According to Purdue philosophy professor Daniel Kelly, Halloween triggers just the right dose of fear and fun for everyone.

“What Halloween sort of celebrates, or makes it effective anyway, is that it gives a venue where you can experience these emotions which evolve to protect us from various threats,” Kelly said.

Those threats include things such as bodily harm, sickness or anything that might be thought of as unpleasant. All of those threats can be tied back to the emotion of disgust – where people seek out an emotional rush of fear without any real danger.

Kelly said the emotion is an interesting part of human psychology.

“Disgust, it’s basically an adverse emotion. It’s not sort of happy or pleasant,” he said. “People are going out looking for emotional experiences — which you might think are unpleasant, but [they] like them.”

He said Halloween is one of those occasions where people can go out and fulfill those desires without any risks.

“There’s always a disgust component to horror or zombies and the fact that they might get you and limbs falling off and all the blood and gore and everything,” Kelly said.

Overall, Kelly said there’s nothing wrong with getting a little dose of fear.

“Experiencing the emotion itself doesn’t have any real downside in these cases, and maybe it sort of sensitized you to things which actually may be threatening down the road,” said Kelly.