Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Elicited behaviors: Startle Response and Horror Movies

    Elicited behaviors are behaviors that are involuntarily drawn out by a stimulus. These are automatic responses and one example of this is reflexes. Reflexes are a simple automatic response that can involve a gland or set of muscles or involved the coordinated action of several body parts. Another example is the flexion response which is when we automatically pull our hand away from a hot or sharp object and this is usually accompanied by a startle response. The startle response is a defensive reaction to a stimulus and involves tightening of muscles, hormone and internal organ changes. A few things can produce the startling response. Horror movies as well as horror games are known for their ability to produce this response. 

    Horror movies can produce the startle response from the audience through the sounds and images. For example, the acoustic blast is a common sound device used in horror films and it is specifically used to elicit a startle response from the viewers. This is often referred to as a “jump scare” where a sudden and loud noise in a film is used to make the audience jolt. There are many horror films known for their jump scares. For example, the movie “Insidious” there is a scene where the mother talks about the dream she had the night before to her son and how she saw an evil presence standing in the corner of her grandson’s room. When she looks back up at her son she sees the same demon standing right behind him which not only scares her but the audience as well. This is one of many infamous scenes in horror movies that have produced a strong startle response from the audience. I included a video where Shannon Odell, a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate explains why the techniques used in horror movies are effective in producing a startle response.



  1. Hi Autumn,
    I am not a huge fan of horror movies at all because all I do is jump and get startled. Although something I find interesting is that some people either don't get startled much or even at all. I know some people who actually enjoy being scared. Even though jump scares are meant to cause a startle response, some people don't process fear the same as others and jump scares might not affect them as much.

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