Liking Horror Movies Makes You a Good Leader, According to Science

Women Watching Movie


AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
Horror movies aren't for everyone — but for those who like to indulge in (and can withstand) a good scary movie — and maybe even a movie marathon — might have an edge over the rest of us. Yes, they can sleep soundly with the lights off. They might even be able to walk alone at night without squeezing their key between their knuckles. And they definitely don't need to check behind the shower curtain every time they go to use the bathroom — or under the bed before hitting the hay for the matter. But, moreover, science suggests that people who enjoy watching horror movies are actually probably better leaders.
According to PsychCentral, people who enjoy horror films experience stress differently than those who can't stand them. They tend to be more empathetic, patient and moralistic, while also enjoying stimulating environments — qualities that are virtually necessary to lead.  Meanwhile, those who don't enjoy scary movies tend to be more anxious, controlling and impatient, which, of course, would hurt leaders.
"There are several personality characteristics that might attract certain people to the type of experience that a horror film can provide," Dr. Madeline William, PsyD. reportedly told Bustle, adding that these people might enjoy empathizing with more complex characters (like those in scary movies) and handle hyper-stimulation better given how suspenseful horror films can be. "They may be individuals who have a strong sense of morality who enjoy seeing wrongs being righted."
In addition, according to a study conducted by the team over at The Conversation, horror films actually allow people to process the most difficult aspect of the human experience in a protected place, given that horror films are merely entertainment and their plots are not actually unfolding in viewers' real worlds. Therefore, those who can withstand watching a horror movie from start to finish might have an easier time digesting difficult situations in real-life, too.
Meanwhile, for people who aren't so into horror films, they may have difficulty processing the intense imagery and emotional and psychological arousal that films can induce, according to PsychCentral.
In fact, a 2003 study from Coventry University in the UK and published in the journal Stress, found that watching horror films significantly increases stress — and, for many people, stress can be detrimental. But for some, this kind of stress fires up their fight-or-flight response, which the researchers actually called "good stress." That's because brief bouts of stress have been linked to improved immune function and activation, according to the research.
So those who can handle the heat on screen can likely better handle the heat in real life. For those who can't, stress is a whole different beast. But it's easy to see how a good scare in a safe space can make one a better leader.
And lest you've forgotten, horror is also the only film genre where women appear and speak as often as men. Perhaps that has something to do with making viewers better leaders — they're witnessing equality unfold, at least on film. University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith found that, of the 5,839 characters in the 129 top-grossing films released between 2006 and 2011, fewer than 30 percent were women or girls. But horror was the one genre where women and girls were playing increasingly prominent parts. Another recent study by Google and the Geena Davis Institute also found that, in film, men are seen and heard twice as often as women — but, again, horror films are an exception.
Stress management skills paired with exposure to equal representation — that sounds like a recipe for leadership.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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