Discomfiting connections

I wonder whether there is a connection between disparate experiences that simulate discomfiting situations in the service of entertainment. On the one hand, video games, sky diving and horror movies are three examples of activities that don’t pose any actual danger, yet create the illusion that danger is lurking just around the corner.

Having gone sky diving myself, I can assure you that it is quite safe. Yet dropping out of an airplane from an altitude 12,000 feet certainly makes you feel as though you are putting your life on the line.

On the other hand, in most comedy films and plays, we see other people in extremely discomfiting situations. In that moment, we would not wish to be those people, and yet we can derive great pleasure from laughing at their predicament.

I wonder whether the first-person simulated discomfort of thrill experiences and the third-person simulated discomfort of comedy are somehow connected. Is there a section of our brain that seeks to be thrown out of balance?

Maybe in each case the ultimate payoff is the tame: The serotonin rush which comes from realizing that everything is, after all, ok.

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