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  • Hey Vsauce, Michael here. In 1924

  • psychologist Carney Landis drew lines on people's faces

  • and then photographed them in various scenarios

  • to study facial expressions. But he didn't use actors

  • and he didn't tell the participants to pretend to feel emotions instead

  • he subjected them to actual trauma he had them do things like

  • smell ammonia, look at pornographic images and even reach their hand in

  • buckets of wet slimy frogs. His most intense directive

  • involved ordering them to take a knife and while being photographed

  • cut off the head of a living rat

  • seriously

  • most initially refused to cut the head off, but eventually

  • two-thirds agreed to do as they were told

  • including a 13-year-old boy referred to the psychology department by a doctor

  • for high blood pressure thought to be caused by emotional instability

  • many believe his inclusion in Landis' experiment

  • was an accident

  • If replicated today Landis might be arrested

  • but what is psychologically arresting about these images

  • is that the unease and disgust and fear they show

  • Is real. It's disturbing

  • but fascinating

  • we are paradoxically drawn towards some pretty repulsive things

  • car accidents, car chases

  • the possibility of a crash of a fight

  • or a natural disaster; I mean not one that hurts anyone of course

  • but one that's exciting. Celebrity scandal

  • drama, disfiguration, true crime, war

  • and gore, the macarbe. Like the Kangling a trumpet

  • used during Himalayan Buddhist rituals that's made out of a human leg bone

  • we often feel guilty for being interested

  • in these types of things after all they are unpleasant

  • but yet we can't look away. Why?

  • well there is no single reason there are many of them

  • but they can be mould into a mnemonic

  • we like disturbing things because we like

  • to scream. They give us strength, catharsis

  • reality, exploration, acceptance and meaning

  • watching someone eat gross tasting jellybeans

  • or a ghost pepper or a spoonful of cinnamon or

  • suffer in more extreme ways, is a kinda strange thing to like to do

  • but its part of what keeps us alive

  • we are curious even if the outcome

  • could be bad

  • we often find uncertainty more unpleasant

  • than unpleasant certainty. At least if we look

  • we know. There's a neurological basis for exploring in the face of danger

  • we become more attentive and alert

  • when we are frightened, which makes sense. Neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine

  • are released when we are scared physically and mentally preparing us to

  • take on a threat or successfully escape from it

  • dopamine is famously part of the brains

  • reward system. Dopamine is released in response to pleasurable

  • things like sex and food but that doesn't mean

  • our brains find disturbing things pleasurable

  • it's more interesting than that, when dopamine systems

  • are inhibited in laboratory animals they will cease

  • to seek out food

  • and literally starve to death; because they no longer find food

  • fun...no. If food is placed

  • in their mouths they will consume it and express

  • signs that satisfaction. Evidence like this suggests that the brain contains

  • systems that motivate seeking, approaching and curiosity

  • for their own sake. This has implications in the study of

  • compulsive behavior just because you wanted to do something

  • doesn't mean you like it. The rush of chemicals into our brains and bodies when we are

  • scared

  • help us. When the threats are real. But if the threats

  • aren't real of if we are safely distant from them

  • and merely spectating. The same chemicals still

  • appear making us more attentive, more curious

  • and making it more difficult to look away. In the early nineteen hundred's

  • Eugène-Louis Doyen published incredible images of corpses he cut

  • into stackable slices. The images

  • are amazingly macarbe but yet utterly

  • fascinating and a wonderful reminder of what we are

  • literally made of. We often feel like we need an excuse

  • like Halloween or anatomy homework in order to look at things like that

  • without coming across as a total weirdo. I mean

  • come on if you look too interested in the macarbe it might look like you are

  • into, approve of or enjoy the gruesome

  • funny enough that guilt may very well fuel

  • our desire to look in first place sometimes

  • pressure to not do something can actually make people more likely

  • to do that thing

  • it's called the boomerang effect. There are many different ways for things to

  • boomerang; one is Streisand effect

  • when trying to suppress something unintentionally

  • makes it more widely distributed. In 2003

  • Barbra Streisand sued to suppress a photo

  • published online, as part of a California coastline preservation project

  • one of the photos, the one she was trying to get rid of, showed

  • her house. Within a month of the lawsuit going public

  • nearly half a million people had flooded the website and downloaded the

  • picture. Before the suit only six people

  • had downloaded the image two of which were her lawyers

  • in a similar fashion social pressures and tabboo's against viewing

  • disturbing things can make them more

  • interesting

  • rarer and so a more valuable commodity and also

  • free in that deliberately viewing them can demonstrate to ourselves and others

  • that we are free and can do what we want

  • disturbing things can also make us feel

  • stronger, because their repulsiveness

  • is a challenge. Glenn Sparks at Purdue University

  • has studied the way terrifying films affect us

  • after watching them viewers often feel strong

  • satisfied that they didn't chicken out that they made it through

  • they conquered something disturbing and were able to handle it

  • it's almost a form of practice; as Stephen King put it

  • we make up horrors to help us cope with real ones

  • on the more negative side following celebrity scandals or seeing

  • defeat on the faces of the rival team

  • can make you feel pretty good it's called

  • schadenfreude which means harm joy; getting pleasure

  • from others misfortunes. Social comparison theory

  • describes and predicts behavior like this although grades and

  • rankings cause anxiety we nonetheless possess

  • a drive to seek out evaluations of ourselves

  • in comparison to others, we especially enjoyed the evaluations

  • that put us on top. Now causing other people to be

  • less well of. Sort of makes sense under this lens

  • if its relative happiness you're concerned with trolling or harassing or griefing

  • other people sort of works, it doesn't make

  • you happier but compared to the people you're annoying

  • you are less annoyed

  • so yay... viewing scenes of

  • anger and vengeance and violence

  • that don't even involve us can nonetheless cause

  • our own anger and aggression to burn off, as though they're being

  • satisfied. It's called catharsis

  • a cleanser a purification. Creating images and movies and stories that play with our

  • emotions might be grasping at low

  • hanging fruit. A task beneath such logical creatures as ourselves

  • or it might be a powerful demonstration

  • of the fact that we have control or at least a leash

  • around how we feel. We condemn the actions

  • of serial killers but nonetheless often treat them

  • like rock stars. Web sites like redrumautographs and serialkillersink

  • sell autographs, souvenirs, trinkets and works of art

  • made by real serial killers

  • some call it murderabilia. On a spectrum of petty thrills and morose voyeurism

  • to complete overwhelming obsession and fear

  • Our relationship with the morbid is complicated

  • but it is under our control if we're aware

  • of our actions. One of the most constructive and socially important

  • uses of the morbid is the facilitation of meaning, acceptance

  • and empathy. In his book 'Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck'

  • Eric G. Wilson says that our attraction to the macabre is

  • on some level a desire to experience

  • someone else's suffering

  • morbid curiosity is often about the imagination

  • imagining what it would be like to be that other person what if that happened

  • to me? Could it happen to me?

  • empathetic feelings remind us that our time is limited

  • and that we are fragile and in doing so bring us

  • closer together. Sure enough the last movie I watched it made me want to go

  • out and hug the very first friend I could find

  • wasn't a happy feel-good comedy instead

  • it was Louis Theroux's somber 'Extreme Love Dementia'

  • viewing unpleasant things

  • doesn't always make them less unpleasant or any less real

  • but that's not always the point. Morbid curiosity is

  • also about acceptance remember

  • our brains are wired with motivations to explore

  • unpleasant things, because doing so can be preferable

  • to ignorance. Gawking at morbidity is often about asking why

  • there must be a reason, a meaning behind all of this

  • when tragedy strikes or horrors are revealed we listen to experts give opinions

  • neighbors describe the killer, we look for signs that were missed

  • and confirmation that others feel the same way we do