Halloween is here again. That means your co-workers have planted surprise spiders around the office. You’ve been invited to a haunted hayride. Your neighbor’s yard has a full cemetery, rigged with motion detectors and pop-up zombies. Chicken-livered from the start, I have always dreaded this time of year. Haunted houses, ghost tours and horror film fests are not my thing, and why people love having the daylights scared out of them completely escapes me.
I decided to try to understand my friends who are on the lookout for thrills this time of year. As it turns out, there are many possible reasons some people like to be scared stiff. Each person’s threshold for experiences that provoke fear is made up of a unique recipe that blends nature and nurture. “The ingredients vary from person to person,” said Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and a former president of the American Psychological Association.
Dr. Farley is interested in what draws certain people to extreme behaviors, like driving racecars, climbing Mount Everest and flying hot air balloons across oceans. In the 1980s, he coined the term “Type T” personality to refer to the behavioral profile of thrill-seekers. What makes someone thrill-seeking, he said, comes down to a mix of genes, environment and early development.
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