Fear helps people bond, expert says - Fox 2 News Headlines

Fear helps people bond, expert says

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By Deena Centofanti
FOX 2 News Health Reporter

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- I don't understand why so many people are haunted house fans.  Admittedly, I am not one of them.  Waiting in long lines, forking over a big chunk of your pocket change, following strangers in the darkness in complete fear -- for what?

"Fear connects us to other people," said human nature expert Paul Zak.

He is the author of the "Moral Molecule", a book that examines what makes us good or evil.  He told me the terror brings us closer to one another.

"It's interesting that when we have scary experiences with a loved one, with a family member, with a complete stranger, all of the sudden we're chatting with them.  We're having a good time and we're bonding to them."

HauntWorld.com estimates Americans spend between $300 million and $500 million a year visiting haunted houses.  That translates into about 3 million Americans searching for a scare.

What happens to your brain when you go through a traumatic event?  If you're with other people, like in a crowded haunted house, ironically, there's a release of oxytocin, the stress busting hormone that helps us bond with each other.

"We found that things like roller coasters, soldiers in battle, extreme sports, they all release oxytocin, as well as adrenaline and stress hormones," Zak said.  "We see this in individuals who survived plane accidents and extreme events.  Soldiers in battle have very strong connections."

Zak has been working with Cedar Point to study why families connect so well on roller coasters and the theory is the same as with haunted houses.  At the end of the day, you look at each other and say together we survived.

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