Interested in serial killers? Morbid curiosity in college students

Abstract

A plethora of movies, television programs, podcasts, and online videos are dedicated to horror and terror, with fictional (e.g., zombies) and nonfictional (e.g., serial killing) themes. Morbid curiosity is a phenomenon where individuals attend to, or seek information about, horrid subjects, such as terror and death. Moreover, morbid curiosity has been tied with sexual curiosity and sensation seeking in past research, with men typically demonstrating more of each phenomenon. We hypothesized that interest in the topic of serial killers and other morbid academic and entertainment topics would be positively associated with morbid curiosity, sexual curiosity, and sensation seeking. Data supported these hypotheses with some notable gender differences. Viewed through the lens of evolutionary psychology, interest in horrific events, such as serial killing, may be a product of protective vigilance. We discuss these results, limitations, and future directions for research.

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Harrison, M.A., Frederick, E.J. Interested in serial killers? Morbid curiosity in college students. Curr Psychol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-00896-w

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Keywords

  • Morbid curiosity
  • Protective vigilance
  • Serial killers