What Makes People Scared? A Closer Look At The Details.

Being scared is entirely an emotional experience. Fear, desire and the unknown are motivating pressures that move people to act in certain ways toward other people and while alone. It boils down to psychology and, while we’re not psychologists, we know a thing or two about what makes people fearful. After analyzing a few thousand horror films, having discussions with directors, reading scary novels and studying the history of the influence of fear we’ve put together our thoughts on what leads people to this emotional place of fear and uncertainty.

Visual (Gore)

Some people get scared and anxious at the sight of a few drops of blood. But what happens when these people witness extreme levels of gore?

There is something unsettling about seeing humans as flesh and blood instead of people with personalities. At our core, we are entities composed of organs and our bodies are held together in a very delicate way. What happens when you take something hidden from us everyday and expose it in plain sight? Usually the effect is very unsettling. Doctors and nurses deal with this everyday, but to the general public the only times that we may witness true gore is in times of war and during atrocious accidents. Sometimes simply seeing road kill is a wakeup call.

Seeing human insides (guts, bones, brains, etc) ignites a sense of unease and natural instinct. Immediately those encountering the scene are motivated to flee and protect their loved ones. On screen, its a different experience, but it still holds true that a level of unease is generated.

Visual (Unknown)

This is the same effect that young children experience when they can’t sleep at night because their night light doesn’t brighten the room enough, or when an adult has heightened level of awareness (along with elevated pulse) during a walk home late at night alone. When humans aren’t entirely certain of their surroundings, they’re much more alert and perhaps even paranoid about the unknowns surrounding them.


Suspense is similar to the previous item, but it’s somewhat different. Suspense can be a variety of different variations of the senses: visual, audio, touch, smell and taste (although rarely taste). Suspense creates different emotions in different people. In men more common reactions are frustration, discomfort and anger, while in women anxiety is more common. Suspense is fear of the unknown. Our bodies are programmed to naturally organize information from our surroundings and when that information is incomplete, we’re inclined to be uncomfortable until we find the missing puzzle piece (even if we’re unsure of which piece is missing).

Imagination & Paranoia

Ever have a dream where your imagination ran wild and you woke up confused about where these ideas came from. Or maybe you’ve had built up suspense over time that was never officially resolved, so you’re mind started filling in the blanks without any rational purpose or without sufficient evidence. Our imaginations are very powerful things, perhaps one of the things that is core to the human experience. The imagination in humans has lead to social upheaval, advances in technology and new theories that have progressed the human race. Unfortunately, the imagination has also lead many people to insanity.

Audio (Loud & Unknown)

Perhaps one of the most obvious seeds of fear comes from our sense of hearing. Humans are inherently built to be afraid of loud, sudden noises. These sounds immediately incite the need to flee the area and later examine the cause of the noise. Additionally, uncertainty is caused by sounds that we’re not familiar with. Ticking sounds, deep sounds, growls, or even common sounds from irregular places cause anxiety and perhaps even curiosity within us. When watching a scary horror film, try plugging or covering you’re ears during the climax of a horror scene. You’ll be surprised to find that the level of scaryness is drastically reduced because our sense of hearing is no longer in tact. Audio tracts in scary movies are tremendously important, perhaps even more important than the visuals in many cases, depending on the movie.

Other Types of Fear

There are, of course, hundreds of types of fear. In this article we’ve focussed more closely on general concepts of innate fear, that is, fear that is natural in the interest of self preservation. Other fear and anxieties often come from society, mass distributed information and the media, all of which are  created for a purpose, generally profits and political gain. This is an entirely different subject for another day.


What makes people scared can be summed up in these two words: Unknown & Irrationality. Being afraid is a natural emotion that is meant to protect us, but unfortunately it often puts us in more danger than than the actual thing that instigated the fear in the first place. This means that being afraid is rarely necessary. It’s important for us to confront our fears in a very direct and behavioral way. We need to learn about our behavior, learn how to change it, and then take the steps to overcome this fear. Once we overcome this fear, being afraid then becomes more entertaining and enjoyable rather than consuming and damaging.

At ScariestThing.com, we love being scared. We are fear junkies. We love scary movies, conspiracies, horror pictures and scary stories.

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