Consumption of Psychological Horror is Associated With Reduced Stigmatization of Mental Illness

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Abstract: Pervasive reactions toward mental illness include dehumanization and stigma. Given the portrayal of such disorders as threatening in psychological horror films, consumption of this subgenre of horror could be associated with pronounced stigmatization of mental illness through dehumanization. We report results of an online survey of U.S. undergraduates (N = 202) who indicated how frequently they consumed various subgenres of horror films, in addition to their tendencies to dehumanize and stigmatize those experiencing mental illnesses. Only psychological horror consumption was associated with these ascriptions. However, and contrary to predictions, greater psychological horror consumption was associated with less stigmatization and dehumanization of mental illness. We provided updated empirical findings and theoretical conceptualizations to provide context for these unexpected findings and discuss the broader potential benefits of the horror genre in reducing stigmatization.

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Journal of Media Psychology

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