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But to masters of the genre, as well as to experts in media psychology, it makes perfect sense.

In Danse Macabre, Stephen King described “terror as the finest emotion, and so I will try to terrorize the reader.” What makes it so fine?

“One of the major reasons we go to scary movies is to be scared,” says Fischoff.

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'On your first date, make sure your potential partner feels hungry - when they are hungry, they have a wider range of body shapes they consider ideal.

In studies, the hungry group are attracted to bigger people.

Prof Gareth Leng, Professor of experimental physiology at Edinburgh University, said our choice of partner wasn't wholly logical because it was controlled by the brain - specifically the hypothalamus which controls love and sexual behaviour.

Films like Paranormal Activity 3 still make massive box-office hauls, and science knows why.

Sharon Begley reveals why scary flicks give us a powerful feeling of catharsis and reinforce old-fashioned beliefs about morality.

When Paranormal Activity 3 chalked up record-setting numbers at last weekend’s box office (its million was the most ever for a horror film), Stuart Fischoff wasn’t surprised.

“Films like Paranormal Activity 3 have a pre-registered audience just waiting for the latest Hollywood bouquet of blood, sweat, tears, and chills to exquisitely fill our lust for horribly sweet sensations,” says Fischoff, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and senior editor of the online Journal of Media Psychology.

The fact that some people like to be scared out of their wits never ceases to baffle those of us who would as soon see Freddy Krueger slash his way through A Nightmare on Elm Street as we would have surgery without anesthesia.

“We know that, in an hour or two, we’re going to walk out whole,” says Fischoff.

“We’re not going to have any holes in our head, and our hearts will still be in our bodies.”But those hearts will likely be pounding a bit harder than if you had just seen, say, Dolphin Tale. “If we have a relatively calm, uneventful lifestyle, we seek out something that’s going to be exciting for us, because our nervous system requires periodic revving, just like a good muscular engine,” says Fischoff.

A 1995 study found that the higher people score on a scale that measures sensation-seeking, the more they like horror films.

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