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Tue, Nov 04

How science can help you survive scary movies

My mother’s favorite story to tell in October features me as a 3-year-old, sitting down to breakfast at a local diner. The restaurant’s walls and windows were bedecked with Halloween cutouts — think cartoonish ghosts, goblins, and, of course, vampires. I took one look at Dracula and went into a full-blown meltdown, so my mom’s friend hurried over and covered him up with a napkin.

Upon her return, I leaned over and whispered, “I can still see his toes.”

I wish I could say I’ve outgrown these anxieties about all things that go bump in the night. Alas, my Halloween nerves are as fragile now as they were then. So I set out to finally confront my fears, with a little help from science.

Dr. Kevin LaBar, a professor at Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, was kind enough to introduce me to Fear 101. “Fear occurs when there is an imminent threat. You have a specific cue, and the cue is in front of you prompting that fight-or-flight response,” he said. “Fear is a good thing, when it’s warranted.”

Read more from The Week.