Halloween Special: Do women get scared more easily than men?

Do you scream at the movies?

When the killer is lurking behind the door – come on, admit it ladies – how could you cope without a hunky man to hold on to (or, failing that, the nearest trouser-wearing dweeb)?

It’s not very politically correct, but this stereotype could have some scientific backing: surveys show that women have a tendency to admit to getting more scared than men. An Italian team of researchers found that women said they felt much more repulsed by watching gruesome movie scenes than men. And in separate study of 1,000 adults, women had significantly higher rates of being scared by spiders, heights and closed spaces than men.

So at first glance, the evidence is clear: women get scared more easily (and need men to look after them)!

Scared catBut there may be an alternative… what if men just don’t admit to getting scared?

Our lab-coat wearing friends might also have the answer to that question. By strapping pulse, blood pressure monitors
(and various other medical-type regalia) to men and women whilst watching horror movies, our academically-inclined film researchers discovered that men and women’s bodies react in almost exactly the same way to onscreen frights: pulse, blood pressure, skin reactions were pretty much identical.

The conclusion? Men and women (physically at least) get just as frightened – men just don’t admit it!

There you have it: women are more honest than men when it comes to bangs and bumps in the night. As if you needed research to discover that…
Links to the research:

Codispoti, M.; Surcinelli, P.; Baldaro, B. (2008) Watching emotional movies: Affective reactions and gender differences. International Journal of Psychophysiology, Vol 69(2), Aug 2008, 90-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.03.004

S Fischoff, J Antonio, D Lewis, Favorite films and film genres as a function of race, age, and gender, Journal of Media Psychology, Volume 3, Number 1, Winter, 1998

Mats Fredrikson, Peter Annas, HAkan Fischer, Gustav Wik, Gender and age differences in the prevalence of specific fears and phobias, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 34, Issue 1, January 1996, Pages 33-39

Article by Stuart Farrimond

October 27, 2011

Doctor Stu is editor of Guru Magazine. He originally trained as a medical doctor before deciding to branch out into lecturing, writing, editing and science communication. He drinks far too much coffee, eats lots of ice cream and has a bizarre love of keeping fit.
You can check out Doctor Stu’s blog at realdoctorstu.com or his poncy personal website stuartfarrimond.com. Here's his .

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