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Monsters Evolve: A Biocultural Approach to Horror Stories

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Horror fiction is a thriving industry. Many consumers pay hard-earned money to be scared witless by films, books, and computer games. The well-told horror story can affect even the most obstinate skeptic. How and why does horror fiction work? Why are people so fascinated with monsters? Why do horror stories generally travel well across cultural borders, if all they do is encode salient culturally contingent anxieties, as some horror scholars have claimed? I argue that an evolutionary perspective is useful in explaining the appeal of horror, but also that this perspective cannot stand alone. An exhaustive, vertically integrated theory of horror fiction incorporates the cultural dimension. I make the case for a biocultural approach, one that recognizes evolutionary underpinnings and cultural variation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of General Psychology
Pages (from-to)222-229
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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