Thursday, November 03, 2011

Mad science: The snuggle of doom!

The Psychologuist has a great info dump article on the psychology of horror that gives readers a nice survey of work in the field: from evolutionary developmental theories on uses of fear to theories on the popularity of specific monster tropes. One nice takeaway is the experimental evidence for what's commonly known as the "snuggle theory." Now you'll rarely see the snuggle theory brought into horror conversations when the horror blog pro-am get around to discussing the importance and meaning of horror. Why? Well, because it's main premise is that horror's just an elaborate pick-up gimmick. Also, what horror blog wants to drop the word "snuggle?" The snuggle theory holds that "viewing horror films may be a rite of passage for young people, providing them with an opportunity to fulfill their traditional gender roles." Basically, it's a danger free way for dudes to act brave in the face of fear and be a comfort to their scared potential mates. Not only is there some awkwardly heavy-handed bio-determinism all up in there, but who wants to take their cherished genre and say that its, at it roots, a kinda of half-assed way to impress the babes with faux courage? But before we utterly dismiss it, here comes the science:

A paper from the late 1980s by Dolf Zillmann, Norbert Mundorf and others found that male undergrads paired with a female partner (unbeknown to them, a research assistant), enjoyed a 14-minute clip from Friday the 13th Part III almost twice as much if she showed distress during the film. Female undergrads, by contrast, said they enjoyed the film more if their male companion appeared calm and unmoved. Moreover, men who were initially considered unattractive were later judged more appealing if they displayed courage during the film viewing. ‘Scary movies and monsters are just the ticket for girls to scream and hold on to a date for dear life and for the date (male or female) to be there to reassure, protect, defend and, if need be, destroy the monster,’ says Fischoff. ‘Both are playing gender roles prescribed by a culture.’

So, next time somebody holds a roundtable on what's so great about horror, have the courage to say "I like horror because it's a great way to fool horror chicks into thinking I'm awesome so I can bang them." I know at least one horror blogger who should be answering this way already, but let's all do our horror-blog host pal a solid and take the pressure off by "I am Spartacus"-ing the idea.


Aaron White said...

My wife always clings to me during scary movies, but nowadays she refuses to watch scary movies. Dunno what Zillman, Mundorf and Fischoff would make of that.

Jesús Torrealba said...

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Shon Richards said...

So back when I was married to my first wife but was platonic friends with the woman who was to become my 2nd wife, my first wife refused to see horror movies. I had bought Planet Terror on dvd and was dying to see it but not crazy about watching it alone.

My platonic female friend suggested we watch it together and after the first gross out scene, she was insisting that I hold her while she buried her face in my shoulder.

I happily confess that all that snuggling changed my opinion on my once platonic friend.

Platonic friend turned 2nd wife later admitted that she wanted to see the movie as an excuse for us to cuddle.

I still consider Planet Terror our romantic movie.

David Lee Ingersoll said...

Is that Bob Wilkins in the photograph?

CRwM said...


That one of the nicest stories ever posted on this dim little blog. Gracias for sharing.


That is indeed Bob Wilkins.

Troy Z said...

If you want first-hand research into this phenomenon, I suggest working at a spookhouse around Halloween. I just finished a seasonal gig at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights and you will inadvertently discover, then mentally chronicle, this gender role aspect of couples when they walk through the mazes.
At first, I thought the standard configuration of the tandem-stepping girl-out-in-front/guy-behind-with-arms-around-the-girl was a Reverse Macho aberration, as though the male was offering up the lady for sacrifice in exchange for leniency. However, not long after that, one would realize the emotional and physically practical aspects of this pairing. Emotionally, as you noted, the female would receive a protective embrace, while, practically, her typically smaller stature would still receive a sightline for the spectacle of simulated danger around her. While also addressing these practical aspects, make note that the male will receive a socially acceptable public lap dance as the woman squirms at all the startling jump-scares.
The spookhouse, more so than movies, will also afford another opportunity for relationship insight. An internal betting pool will present itself to the person employed to do the scaring as to how many more months a relationship will last when a male will break off to flee from an in-person scare, a fright removed from the distance and safety of a movie screen. Moreover, you can be sure that very same actuarial tables are suddenly being calculated by the female.
The takeaway lesson from this: Ladies, drop the Chick Flick date night as a rubric for gauging long-term relationship reliability. Instead, start making plans for attending a haunted house attraction next Halloween.

CRwM said...

Ladies, listen to Mr. D.

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