They weren’t lazy, they were doing research

One of the memes that made the rounds during lockdown was the responsible adult one shown below.

Lazy or responsible

A group of people sleeping on the bed

Description automatically generated

But this meme got it all wrong. Sitting on the sofa watching movies all day wasn’t laziness, it was research. 

At least for some of us.

To be more precise, watching horror movies and pandemic movies turned out to be a big help in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown. Somehow Coltan Scrivner from the University of Chicago and his colleagues got the idea to assess how horror movie fans dealt with the pandemic. 

They recruited 310 movie fans during the pandemic and checked how they dealt with emotional stress during the pandemic and how well they were prepared for the challenges they faced in spring. They also checked what kind of movies these people watched before the pandemic.

It turns out that watching horror movies is not just entertaining to some people (I am decidedly not one of them) but it helps these people imagine stressful situations and better regulate their emotional response to stress. As a result, horror movie fans weren’t more prepared than other people for the pandemic, but their psychological distress during the pandemic was significantly lower than for other people.

Then the researchers turned to people who liked to watch pandemic movies (now that is something I can relate to). These people felt more prepared for the pandemic than people who did not watch those movies. And while past use of pandemic movies was not related to lower psychological distress during the pandemic, current interest in these movies was. In other words, watching pandemic movies before Covid-19 helped them prepare for such an event, and watching them during Covid-19 helped them better cope with it.

So, don’t you ever call your teenage kids lazy for watching horror movies, disaster movies, or pandemic movies again. They are doing vital research that will help them cope with the alien invasion once it happens.

Preparedness for a pandemic and previous consumption of pandemic movies

A picture containing map

Description automatically generated

Source: Scrivner et al. (2020).