Women`s brains `make them more scared during horror movies`

Last Updated: Aug 24, 2011, 14:42 PM IST

London: Ever wondered why some women get scared watching horror films while most men stay calm? Well, it`s actually their brains which make females more likely to be terrified by the flicks, a new study has claimed.

Researchers have found that men and women differ in the way they anticipate an unpleasant emotional experience, which influences the effectiveness with which that experience is committed to memory.

In their study, the researchers at the University College London found that women get more scared than men during horror films as they are more likely to anticipate the scary scenes that lie ahead, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.

For the study, some 30 men and women had their brain activity measured as they viewed positive and negative pictures, such as nice landscapes and extreme violence. They were given a clue to the picture in advance, such as a smiley face for a positive image and a sad face for a disturbing one.

The participants then underwent a memory test which showed that the anticipation of seeing something bad caused a heightened brain activity amongst women but triggered nothing in men.

Lead author Dr Giulia Galli said: "When expecting a negative experience, women might have a higher emotional responsiveness than men, indicated by their brain activity.

"This is likely to then affect how they remember the negative event For example, when watching disturbing scenes in films there are often cues before anything `bad` happens, such as emotive music.

"This research suggests that the brain activity in women between the cue and the disturbing scene influences how that scene will be remembered. What matters for memory in men instead is the brain activity while watching the scene."

Dr Galli said that the finding might be relevant for psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, "in which there is excessive anticipation of future threat and memory is often biased towards negative experiences."

PTI