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Thread: Why certain things are frightening,,,

  1. #1 Why certain things are frightening,,, 
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    Psychologically speaking, why is it that horror effects like the "Jacob's Ladder head shake", or characters like Pyramid Head from Silent Hill are so unnerving?


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    Probably because they are weird. 8) What I mean, is it was probably advantageous for us to be sceptical of things we did not know or understand. Fear as an emotion is pretty effective in accomplishing this, as well as for adding the basic motivation for staying away from things that can kill or hurt you. That is the same reason depictions of daemons with snarling teeth are so scary, why most of us are cautious of heights, afraid of being trapped, etc, etc.


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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Probably because they are weird. 8) What I mean, is it was probably advantageous for us to be sceptical of things we did not know or understand. Fear as an emotion is pretty effective in accomplishing this, as well as for adding the basic motivation for staying away from things that can kill or hurt you. That is the same reason depictions of daemons with snarling teeth are so scary, why most of us are cautious of heights, afraid of being trapped, etc, etc.
    That was my "reflex" answer, too. The difficulty I have with that being the whole answer is that only some weird things give me the "gibblies". E.g., the nurses from Silent Hill 2, that freaky girl from The Ring, or the shaking guy tied to the table from hospital scene from Jacob's Ladder. Other weird things (like this creature: http://www.damisela.com/zoo/photo/cq3/platybelodon.jpg ) I don't find nearly so disturbing. In fact, I'd describe Platybelodon as cool, not scary. I might change my mind if one were charging me, but that kind of fear is dramatically different than what I'm talking about.
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    I didn't know Jacob's Ladder head shake, and when I searched in YouTube, and he reached his hand, that was when I stopped the clip. I did know the girl from "The ring", and I can't watch that freaky thing also…
    I think it's not all about "weirdness". I don't have an answer. All I can think of is driven from what I feel when I'm watching those clips. It's moving, unexpected, moving towards me, and trying to reach me or catch me or touch me. It probably would be less unbearable for me if it was an animal.
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    I can tell you that's almost entirely innate. My 17 month old son had never seen a jack-o-lantern in his life (or remembered it), and when we were carving pumpkins, I made a scary one out of a green pumpkin. Everyone else made things like SpongeBob, clowns or silly faces. When he saw mine, he was absolutely terrified, then screamed and ran.

    He had no previous association with the pumpkin, with jack-o-lanterns, with scary faces, with monsters etc. Obviously, fear can be learned, but it's obviously inherent too.
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    It's involuntary empathy for detestable sentience. We're hard-wired to mirror the minds of others, including non-humans... subjectively that feels like getting into another's head-space. Some minds are just too twisted or inhumane for comfort.

    For example you can watch an industrial first aid video, where a guy's hand is chopped off by mechanical accident. That's painful to watch, but it isn't creepy especially if the guy reacts just as you would. However watching a guy indifferently hack his own hand off with an axe is unsettling. You don't want to be inside that that guy's mind, but you are, and it's a horrible place.

    Sharks are unsettling when you look into their soulless eyes and try to understand their minds.
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  8. #7 Re: Why certain things are frightening,,, 
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    Quote Originally Posted by delsydebothom
    Psychologically speaking, why is it that horror effects like the "Jacob's Ladder head shake", or characters like Pyramid Head from Silent Hill are so unnerving?
    It has to do with evolution and natural selection

    Natural selection made it so that humans avoid pain, death, things that cause pain and death. So I'm guessing it's survival instinct to avoid death and painful things, and that's where fear originates from.

    If there was a species that loved death and injuring themselves, they would die off quickly

    If there was species that avoid death and injuring themselves, they wouldn't die off quickly

    So natural selection favors that species
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    It's involuntary empathy for detestable sentience. We're hard-wired to mirror the minds of others, including non-humans... subjectively that feels like getting into another's head-space. Some minds are just too twisted or inhumane for comfort.

    For example you can watch an industrial first aid video, where a guy's hand is chopped off by mechanical accident. That's painful to watch, but it isn't creepy especially if the guy reacts just as you would. However watching a guy indifferently hack his own hand off with an axe is unsettling. You don't want to be inside that that guy's mind, but you are, and it's a horrible place.

    Sharks are unsettling when you look into their soulless eyes and try to understand their minds.
    This is probably the best explanation I've heard for this. Thank!
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  10. #9 Re: Why certain things are frightening,,, 
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    Quote Originally Posted by delsydebothom
    Psychologically speaking, why is it that horror effects like the "Jacob's Ladder head shake", or characters like Pyramid Head from Silent Hill are so unnerving?
    It has to do with evolution and natural selection

    Natural selection made it so that humans avoid pain, death, things that cause pain and death. So I'm guessing it's survival instinct to avoid death and painful things, and that's where fear originates from.

    If there was a species that loved death and injuring themselves, they would die off quickly

    If there was species that avoid death and injuring themselves, they wouldn't die off quickly

    So natural selection favors that species
    That's just it, though; not everything that can kill is unsettling the way that certain psychological horror is. A lion could kill me, and you can bet I'd be scared were I around one, but the image of lion doesn't shake me psychologically in the kind of primal way Silent Hill (speaking about the game here) does.
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    First I would say that it is caused by us being very unfamiliar with what is going on, I basically believe that all fear is the result of having too little information to logically assess a situation and as such the body produces endorphins to alleviate the pain, and at the same time releases adrenaline for a flight or flght response.

    This is why fear sometimes feels good, in a strange BDSM sort of way.

    Take the shaking head for example, their head is doing something you've never seen a head do before. So you have no idea at this point what is going to happen, will the person explode in blood and gore? Will their head be ripped off? Will they jump to the camera with a scary face?

    Its the unknown, that you know something might happen, something that already is happening and you know bugger all about what will come of it.

    The same for the silent hill series (Love them) Pyramid head is wierd full stop, he is the manifestation of your unconcscious mind, its fears, its hopes and its wants, desires etc. Your conscious mind cannot make heads or tails of it.

    Really it is just because it threatens our safety, even on film our evolved bodies think it is in front of us for real. Take silent hill, the sirens, the crying in the toilet. What is scary about crying in the toilet?

    1: Crying is un nerving anyway, (specially the kids down Tescos)
    2: Its Dark (not able to see-again not knowing)
    3: Its a bathroom, a place where we make contact with our sexual organs-links a lot of high energy emotions and thoughts subconsciously.
    4: Opening the door and finding nothing-hoping there would be something there and knowing there was after seeing it would be a relief, not seeing anything there once more leaves that feeling of unknowing.

    All together make a terrific cocktail of rigorous mental energy that makes your mind want to explode, yet you cannot react fight or flight... your just sat there, edging at the edge of you seat, wondering what is around that next corner.

    Just remember, its all fake and for entertainment... theres no need to check under your bed tonight...
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  12. #11 very interesting topic... 
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    Thanks for creating this thread! It's very interesting...

    I've always wondered why many times there's stuff that shouldn't be scary but nonetheless is very unnerving. For example, in the movie The Ring. Of course the girl is scary when it comes out of the TV set and stuff, but to me (is it just me?), the very sight of the well at the end of the infamous video is terrifying! There are many more examples of these "irrational fears", but this is the one that just popped into my mind. Can you guys think of similar stuff?
    This sounds to me like the inverse of the lion pictures case, where, even though a lion could kill you, most of us would actually admire and enjoy the picture instead of feeling fear.
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  13. #12 Re: Why certain things are frightening,,, 
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    Quote Originally Posted by delsydebothom
    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    Quote Originally Posted by delsydebothom
    Psychologically speaking, why is it that horror effects like the "Jacob's Ladder head shake", or characters like Pyramid Head from Silent Hill are so unnerving?
    It has to do with evolution and natural selection

    Natural selection made it so that humans avoid pain, death, things that cause pain and death. So I'm guessing it's survival instinct to avoid death and painful things, and that's where fear originates from.

    If there was a species that loved death and injuring themselves, they would die off quickly

    If there was species that avoid death and injuring themselves, they wouldn't die off quickly

    So natural selection favors that species
    That's just it, though; not everything that can kill is unsettling the way that certain psychological horror is. A lion could kill me, and you can bet I'd be scared were I around one, but the image of lion doesn't shake me psychologically in the kind of primal way Silent Hill (speaking about the game here) does.
    Well what you subjectively fear varies from person to person obviously, but it's based off the same survival instinct to survive. One person can be more afraid of a lion than Silent Hill and vice-versa.

    For me personally Silent Hill doesn't shake me at all nor does a Lion
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    For me personally Silent Hill doesn't shake me at all nor does a Lion
    I bet you would be shaken if you were somehow inside Silent Hill, or (more realistically) being chased by a hungry Lion.

    The thing that made me want to play Silent Hill, strangely enough, was not the horror aspect. I was just impressed with how well a Japanese developer emulated the atmosphere of a New England town--barring, of course, their inclusion of impossibly dense fog and those painful looking creatures.
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    Here's another scene which shouldn't be yet it's very creepy. How the girls have their heads and then move to say something only to get back to their original position. This is weeeeeird! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zCICwYt9cU
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by delsydebothom
    For me personally Silent Hill doesn't shake me at all nor does a Lion
    I bet you would be shaken if you were somehow inside Silent Hill, or (more realistically) being chased by a hungry Lion.

    The thing that made me want to play Silent Hill, strangely enough, was not the horror aspect. I was just impressed with how well a Japanese developer emulated the atmosphere of a New England town--barring, of course, their inclusion of impossibly dense fog and those painful looking creatures.
    Want to visit Silent Hill for real? If you listen to the air raid sirens for about 30 minutes before going to bed, listen to them in bed in your mind and make sure you have meditated to enable lucid dreaming. You will be in Silent Hill. Not for the faint of heart!
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by delsydebothom
    Psychologically speaking, why is it that horror effects like the "Jacob's Ladder head shake", or characters like Pyramid Head from Silent Hill are so unnerving?
    It may be that it resembles psycotic behavior which translate to dangerous behavior, most of us wishes to stay in 1 piece and thereby getting scared to provoke an evasive action.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quantime
    Its the unknown, that you know something might happen, something that already is happening and you know bugger all about what will come of it.
    Í wouldn't define it as such.

    Whenever I meet a group of unknown people in my military jacket, ragget cloth and disordely hair, I incite fear and mistrust.

    Whenever I meet a group of unknown people with tie and suit ..etc, I do not incite fear, even tho I'm unknown to them.

    The unknown factor imo does not explain anything.

    Long ago, I saw an experiments with a lab chimp and a wild chimp.

    - first the lab chimp was shown roses and a snake, but wouldn't have any reaction towards them.
    - The lab chimp would then watch a TV screen and observe the wild chimp sitting and scream in fear of the roses (it really was a snake but edited out, and replaced with roses) The lab chimp would sit puzzled and not act upon the screams of fear.
    - When the roses was replaced with a snake, and the wild chimp screamed in fear, the lab chimp would then adopt the fear of the snake because of the 'flok instinct' aka group think.
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