Tag Archives: Halloween

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Witch Flying on Broom at Night Over Manor House

The Science of Scare

I’m guessing I’m not the only person who’s seen this research study popping up all over their social media. broadbandchoices, a broadband internet, mobile/home phone, and TV provider based in the UK, has conducted a study to determine the scariest horror movie ever made: The Science of Scare. Their team reviewed lists of best horror films from critics and on Reddit, and complied what they believe to be a list of the 50 best horror movies of all time.

Then they found 50 participants and had them all watch of the movies while wearing heart rate monitors to track heart rate spikes and compare average heart rates during the movies with their average resting rates.

List of 35 horror movies ranked by average heart rate of 50 people while watching them.
Credit: https://www.broadbandchoices.co.uk/features/science-of-scare

The scientific rigor of this study certainly raises a lot of questions. Lists of best movies are incredibly subjective, and they do not provide the number of sources they consulted or provide the specific lists they took their movies from. How much of their final list was determined based on what was easily available to view? Also, they all seem to be predominantly English language movies (The Orphanage is the only one I’m familiar with on that list that was made in Spanish, but did they watch with subtitles or did they watch a dubbed version?). How did they settle on heart rate as the determining factor of what is scary–was it just because heart rate is relatively easy and noninvasive to measure? How did they pick the participants? What are their demographics (a Nerdist writeup says the participants were of different ages, but I’m not seeing anything about that from broadbandchoices)? What was their previous exposure to/feelings about the genre; did they have any pre-existing medical conditions that could have affected their heart rate monitoring? Under what conditions were the films screened–together, individually, at home, consecutively?

What do you all think? Is this just some harmless Halloween fun, or do “studies” like this contribute to a false narrative that data is objective?

For the record, I’ve never even heard of their top movie, and of their list of 35, I’ve seen 18. You?