Virtually everyone knows what it’s like to feel really scared. We can all remember moments when we experienced a pounding heartbeat, faster breathing, nervous perspiration, or butterflies in the stomach. Whether that fright is caused by watching a nail-biting horror movie, listening to a spine-chilling story, or prowling through a dark-as-night haunted house on Halloween, some people actually revel in feeling frightened.

Strange as this may seem, think about the last time you were scared. Someone may have jumped out at you or thrown a fake spider at you and then you screamed. This was followed by laughter most likely. People are generally motivated to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, but what about a pain so exquisite it becomes pleasurable? How often do we watch a horror film knowing we’ll be too afraid to go anywhere alone afterward, or get off a rollercoaster and say “Let’s go again”?

There are three main reasons researchers believe we subject ourselves to frightening experiences:

1. People aren’t actually afraid during the experience, but enjoying themselves.

2. People are willing to endure terror in order to enjoy a euphoric sense of relief at the end of the experience.

3. People can experience positive and negative emotions simultaneously. Some people actually enjoy the feeling of terror itself, not just the feeling of relief when it’s gone.

Bizarre as all this sounds, it does make some sense.

When is the last time you were scared? Did you enjoy it just a little?