Adrenaline junkies and white-knucklers: A quantitative study of fear management in haunted house visitors

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We investigate approaches to horror entertainment from two common consumer stances: ‘the thrill-seeking stance’ in which adrenaline junkies seek maximal fear arousal and ‘the fear-avoidance stance’ in which so-called white-knucklers seek minimal fear arousal. Visitors of a haunted house attraction (n = 280) were invited to focus on either maximizing or minimizing their fear. Open-ended participant interviews and questionnaire data were used to map how adrenaline junkies and white-knucklers regulate fear, and also how reported fear experience and consumer satisfaction compare across the two groups. A host of antecedent and response-focused strategies, including cognitive, behavioral, and social strategies, were used to up- and down-regulate fear arousal. Notably, the results reveal hitherto uncharted strategies employed by adrenaline junkies to support and maximize their fear experience. Although adrenaline junkies report stronger fear experiences than white-knucklers, consumer satisfaction remains relatively similar across the two groups, indicating that both stances can lead to satisfying consumer experiences. The study thus helps explain the paradoxical appeal of frightening entertainment by illuminating how consumers deliberately up- and down-regulate fear arousal in pursuit of the optimal experience.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPoetics
Volume73
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
ISSN0304-422X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • ABSORPTION, AGREEMENT, EMOTION REGULATION, EXPERIENCES, Fear management, Fear regulation, HORROR, Haunted attractions, Horror, INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES, Immersion, RESPONSES, Recreational fear

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