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Large Grant for New Research Project on Recreational Fear

Danish Independent Research Fund has granted DKK 2.85 million to a new research project that investigates recreational fear.

2020.05.26 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Why do many of us find pleasure in leisure activities that stimulate fear and dread, such as horror movies and haunted houses? This question has puzzled thinkers for a long time, and it remains empirically understudied. However, a new research project, funded by a generous grant from the Danish Independent Research Fund, sets out to investigate the paradoxical allure and psychological underpinnings of recreational fear.

The PI of the project, IMC affiliate Mathias Clasen, says that this is a dream come true. “I have been intrigued by scary entertainment for a long time. This is a unique opportunity for finally getting a good, close look into the machine room of such entertainment.”

The research project, which is titled “When Fear Is Fun: An Empirical Investigation of Recreational Fear,” grows out of previous research projects that have been supported by the IMC seed program, explains Clasen: “This project would not have been possible without the support of the IMC. We’re really in a unique situation at AU, with a center such as the IMC that supports this kind of off-beat but still very important, highly interdisciplinary research. A project such as mine easily falls between two chairs, but it is right at home at the IMC.”

The three-year research project begins in January 2021, and two IMC researchers, Marc Malmdorf Andersen and Mihaela Taranu, will be joining the project as postdocs. They will help Clasen investigate how people engage with recreational fear across the lifespan, identify the psychological and social components of recreational fear in a lab setting, and conduct empirical research on behavior among visitors in a commercial haunted house.