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Why Horror Movies Can Be Good For Mental Health

Horror Movies And Mental Health

Fear clung to his gut and, at night, it emerged in the form of nightmares. That’s why little Mathias tried not to watch those movies: he changed the channel, closed his eyes, turned off the TV. But everything changed when he reached adolescence. By chance, he stumbled upon a miniseries called Apocalypse, about a dystopian future after a pandemic. Then, he read the book that the series was based on. It was by a certain Stephen King. It was terror at first sight.

Mathias swept the library, then the video store. Scream, Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre… he still had nightmares, but he didn’t care anymore. He read and watched everything. It was the kind of adolescent obsession that ends up marking a life.

Mathias Clasen is 45-years-old today. He’s a professor of literature who specializes in the horror genre. He’s the author of the book Why Horror Seduces and director of the Recreational Fear Lab at the University of Aarhus, in Denmark.

Clasen has a theory about his sudden teenage conversion. “It’s a very common trajectory,” he explains. “More than 95% of parents say their children find pleasure in some type of recreational fear. In young children, it’s mainly driven by risky behaviors: physical play, climbing a tree too high, or riding a bike too fast. But when they grow up, it becomes a more controlled fear. They look for it in movies, books and video games.”

This interest begins in the early-teens and peaks before one reaches the age of 20. It then gradually declines with age… but it doesn’t disappear completely. Human beings feel a strange fascination with fear. We pay to be scared at amusement parks. We go to the movies or pick up a console to scream a little. We seek experiences that expose ourselves to unpleasant sensations, which push us to the limit. This is all part of what’s known as the “terror paradox” — a mystery that the fields of psychology and neuroscience have been theorizing about for years.

“The short answer is that humans are biologically designed to find pleasure by playing with fear, because it’s a learning mechanism,” Clasen reflects. “Recreational fear is a safe space in which we can practice [regulating our emotions].” Consuming these cultural products could provide an adaptive advantage, by preparing viewers to face new scenarios in life

Clasen had the opportunity to test this theory when the world became a horror movie, similar to the one he was obsessed with as a teenager. With the population locked down at home due to the pandemic, his team began asking volunteers how they were coping with the situation. Subsequently, his theories were verified. “People who’d seen a lot of horror movies, (especially related to viruses and pandemics) reported greater psychological resilience to stress [than those who hadn’t],” he confirms. “These films proved to be a tool to regulate emotions.”

Scream (1996)
Who’s hiding behind the mask? Movies such as ‘Scream’ (pictured) encourage the viewer to solve the mystery before the protagonist does. This kind of learning can be transferred to real life.

The lists of most-viewed films during those months also validated his idea. You might have expected people to take refuge in gentle comedies, but this wasn’t the case. Contagion (2011), a Steven Soderbergh production about a deadly virus that devastates the planet, became the second-most downloaded film on iTunes during the pandemic, despite having been released 10 years earlier. The consumption of horror films increased exponentially, reaching figures that have remained stable since then. In 2014, they accounted for 2.69% of the annual box office, but this percentage jumped to 12.75% by 2021, according to The Numbers, a film industry data platform.

“Horror movies have never been as popular as they’ve been in the last three years,” Clasen confirms. “But I still don’t have a clear idea as to why.” It may be that, in times of uncertainty, people seek explanations in fiction, inoculating themselves with a dose of tolerable terror that prepares them for fear in real life. “It’s a way of getting vaccinated,” the expert shrugs. “It prepares us, in a safe environment, to deal with stress and anxiety. And with the war, the pandemic, the crises… we have a lot of that in our reality lately.”

Jorge Casanueva is a film critic who specializes in horror. He manages the Horror Losers online community. He agrees that the genre is thriving commercially, although he frames this success within historical stability. “The topics change to reflect the fears of society… but the success [of the horror film industry as a whole], even with its ups and downs, does not,” he tells. “This is an infinite genre. It’s a constant, because it’s in our nature to watch these types of films.”

Casanueva has a more practical theory for why horror is so appealing. “It’s fun,” he summarizes. “I think the viewer is looking — on a physiological level — for an adrenaline rush. Having a bad time, sometimes, is simply entertaining, especially if you do it with friends in a movie theater.” The context in which we consume these films is important. They’re not usually watched alone, but in groups… for obvious reasons. A 2021 study published in the scientific journal PLOS One showed that well-matched couples felt much less stress watching a scary movie with their partner than when doing so alone. Terror is less terrifying when it’s shared.

Detecting murderers in real life

A recent study from the University of Toronto — Surfing Uncertainty with Screams — analyzes human attraction to horror movies from the framework of predictive perception. This theory means that our internal model of the world isn’t necessarily based on reality, but is rather an interpretation of it. Our brain analyzes what’s happening and fills in the information gaps with what it believes is happening. That’s why we can read a word perfectly, even if it’s missing letters. Or interpret the image of a puzzle, even if it doesn’t have all the pieces. But to do this, one requires prior information, such as having read that word before, or having seen a landscape similar to the one in the puzzle. “That’s why horror movies are perfect, because they give us information about contexts we’ve never been in,” explains Mark Miller, the lead author of the study. He’s a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.

These films are based on familiar scenarios and situations. They reproduce stereotypes and clichés. They leave clues about what’s going to happen, with elements such as music. But at the same time, one of the main mechanisms of horror is the element of surprise, which usually occurs in an unexpected final twist, or — in its most distilled and basic form — in the sudden scare. “In a way, we can say that horror movies are designed for our system: they have a balance between the predictable and the unexpected,” the author reflects. “If we think of man as a machine that wants to collect information to minimize surprises, this type of training is perfect.”

Angala Lansbury
The famous actress Angela Lansbury, in the television series ‘Murder, She Wrote.’

So, for example, watching “true crime” can help detect the behavior of a murderer or a rapist… very valuable knowledge in real life. This would explain why these documentaries are more successful among women, who make up 70% of the audience, according to a study by Social Psychological and Personality Science. They’re overwhelmingly the potential victims of these crimes, so they’re the ones who can best benefit from what’s been learned.

The success of giallo a subgenre that originates in Italian cinema, in which clues to the identity of the murderer are given during the movie and revealed in the final scene (with examples ranging from Scream to Murder, She Wrote), also fits into the framework of predictive processing. These films actively toy with the viewer, while helping them solve the mystery before the protagonist does. “And the most important thing isn’t only our reaction,” Dr. Miller explains. “We see how the characters react… and then we comment on it. If you notice, when you watch a scary movie, you’re always comparing what you would do with what the character does. You say, ‘don’t go down to the basement,’ ‘grab the bat,’ or ‘don’t get separated!’ This is because you’re adjusting your predictive model for how things work in uncertain scenarios, comparing possible [real-life] behaviors. So, you’re harvesting information and [improving] results.”

This mechanism would work with all types of films, but it’s in the horror genre where it becomes most important. Firstly, because it places us in improbable scenarios: the life of any person swings between comedy, drama, or porn, depending on the context, but it will rarely go through horror scenarios. You’re more likely to fall in love with a co-worker than to encounter a killer clown hiding in a sewer. Furthermore, Miller points out, “we’re evolutionarily predisposed to be attracted to negative stimuli a little more than positive. It’s less important to notice someone [winking] at you than to detect a tiger’s tail moving behind the tree.”

The example of the tiger, the expert points out, isn’t coincidental. “When we try to represent our fears, we appeal to our evolutionary heritage. We use symbols that produce a visceral reaction in us… a reaction that has been encoded in our instincts for millennia.” Fictional villains — such as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, or Ghostface, lurk in the shadows like feline predators, using sharp weapons, as if they were claws or teeth. They’re the pop culture update of atavistic fears, symbols that man learned to fear thousands of years ago.

Michael Myers – the killer from the 'Halloween' saga – hides in the shadows and uses sharp weapons, like predatory animals. Michael Myers – the killer from the ‘Halloween’ saga – hides in the shadows and uses sharp weapons, like predatory animals.

“If these movies were about effective killing, all the villains would carry automatic rifles,” Miller’s study notes. “However, they [principally] have to do with fear. A chainsaw isn’t a very effective method for killing a group of teenagers… it’s heavy, noisy and can run out of fuel. However, it instills fear, because its characteristics (sharp teeth and a loud roar) mimic those of predatory mammals.”

There are other aspects in which the genre has evolved. “Currently, there’s an average of 10 scares per film,” Clasen points out, “which means we have a scare every 10 minutes or so.” It’s the optimal number, as if it were a mathematical formula. But it wasn’t always like this: in the 1960s, there were only two or three shocks per film. “Then, it went up. And it’s been stable ever since,” he explains. All this can be verified on Where’s the Jump? This scary movie repository points out the exact second where there’s a scare. In the long list of the films that have abused this resource the most, there are hardly any productions from the 20th century.

In horror, the maxim of “the more the better” doesn’t work. “We demonstrated it a few years ago in a study,” Clasen recalls. “We thought there would be a linear relationship, but no, the curve is rainbow-shaped. There’s a moment, which we have called the optimal point of fear, in which enjoyment begins to decline.” That’s when fear stops being fun and starts being unpleasant. The expert explains that this is the reason why horror video games haven’t completely succeeded in the new virtual reality: they’re simply too intense. Titles such as Resident Evil VII, which could be enjoyed without problems on a TV, require special courage to be played with a VR headset. Perhaps that’s why the new bets in the sector, such as the recently-released Alan Wake 2, have left virtual reality aside, to be released only in the classic format.

Fear, in the world of video games, is a particularly fertile genre. It works very well, because it requires the player to take action… they cannot simply close their eyes in the face of a frightening scene. You cannot simply say, “I would do that instead.” You must do it, or your character will die. This generates more concern than a movie, as the experience is more immersive. Still, there comes a point where it can be too much.

In any case, video games are the latest evolution of a tool that has always been there: stories designed to warn about the dangers of real life. And this ranges from children’s fables, such as Little Red Riding Hood, to folkloric myths that were told around the bonfire, or depicted in cave paintings, which reflected terrifying beasts.

“Terror has always existed, since humans have had the ability to create imaginary worlds,” Clasen concludes. And it will continue to exist, he adds, unless something truly terrifying happens.


Culture

Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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