Here's why everyone is watching Squid Game

Plus, the joy of dancing.

“We should be humble about what we think we know, and even humble about what we can know.” sociologist Duncan Watts

BRAIN WAVES

  • The horror! Why do some people love scary movies? That’s the question central to Mathias Clasen’s work at the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University in Denmark. Clasen’s lab conducted a study measuring people’s ideal level of fear while visiting a haunted house. They discovered a “sweet spot” for terror. “​People who seek out horror want just the right amount of it,” Clasen writes. “Too scary, and it is unpleasantly overwhelming; not scary enough, and it is boring.” Somewhere between those two extremes is the ideal amount of fear — what Clasen calls the zone of recreational horror. “A zone in which you are enjoying yourself and might just be learning important things in the process, such as how to regulate your negative emotions,” he says. We’ve talked before about the concept of benign masochism —  the thrill of being close to a potential threat, as long as it remains harmless. Horror movies work the same way. “People evolved to be curious about danger, and they use stories to learn about the world and themselves,” Clasen writes. That may explain the appeal of Squid Game.

  • Keep on dancin’. There’s a reason listening to music at home on your headphones isn’t quite the same as seeing a concert live —and it’s not just because you’re in the same room as Harry Styles. “Music does far more than communicate,” writes Mariusz Kozak, an associate professor of music and music theory at Columbia University. “When witnessed in person, with other people, it can create powerful physical and emotional bonds.” Kozak cites a 2014 study that found syncopated body movements (science-talk for dancing) made people feel good, and another study suggests it creates a sense of belonging. Music has the power to “shape this mass of humanity, giving it structure, suggesting moments of tension and relaxation, of breath, of fluctuations in energy,” Kozak argues. And this can even be true for music without sound, he says.

  • How do the groups you identify with shape your sense of self? Do they influence the beer you buy? The way you vote? Our group loyalties affect us more than we realize, and can even shape our basic senses of sight, taste, and smell. Listen to learn more.

ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST

Oct 18: You know that feeling of “I knew it all along”? How once something bad happens, it all seems so obvious? This week, why it’s so hard to evaluate the choices we made in the past.

Oct 25: We’ve grown accustomed to thinking of climate change as an enemy we must urgently defeat. But as we look around, it seems increasingly clear that we can’t escape catastrophe. What does this mean for how we think about the existential threat of climate change? How can we reframe the way we think about life on a changing planet?

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ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST

Oct 21: Adrianne Drazin was flying overseas with three small children. She was hauling a carry-on suitcase, multiple diaper bags, and her baby in a car seat. As she deplaned, she noticed a family standing next to her — they seemed to be waiting for something.

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MIND GAMES

You open a book and two pages face you. If the product of the two page numbers is 3192, what are the two page numbers? 

LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE

What is a liquid at room temperature in its original state but solidifies when heated?

The answer: An egg!

FROM THE TWITTERATI…

A MOMENT OF JOY

Our audio production team enjoyed this video of how animal sounds are made for TV and movies. 

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