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Knight Life

The Voice of the Loy Norrix Community

Knight Life

The Voice of the Loy Norrix Community

Knight Life

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The urge to watch fights is more than just a teenage desire for violence

Examples of violent media.

Fights in high schools are extremely common. The crowds of students watching and recording, often chanting and shouting for more action and urging the fight to continue occur on a nearly weekly basis.

The desire to fight is often understandable, stemming from disagreements, insults or relationship drama, but the cause of the crowds that gather is difficult to understand. 

The question raised is: why do we feel the need to observe violence?

This phenomenon is not confined to school walls. We as human beings seek out violence and almost crave it. We play video games and watch movies that are almost entirely composed of violent acts, as well as observing sports such as boxing, MMA, football and rugby.

According to Scientific American, the “paradox of horror,” which is the enjoyment of emotions such as fear and disgust, is observed as an evolutionary trait in the animal kingdom, not just in humans. 

The question of why animals desire horror has been studied by the “Father of Evolution,” Charles Darwin. Darwin first heard of the curious behavior of captive monkeys, who, despite fear of snakes, continued to peek into a box filled with them. Darwin furthered this observation by creating his study where he witnessed a similar behavior with a different group of monkeys. Darwin concluded that the monkeys were “satiating their horror.”

This satiation of horror is observed across the animal kingdom and is known as “predator inspection,” a unique prey instinct to observe a threat rather than fight or flee.

Humans experience this behavior through the use of horrifying and violent media. 

Coltan Scrivner, a researcher and behavioral scientist for both Aarhus University, located in Denmark, and Arizona State University, describes the media we seek to fill the void of violence in us as “scary play.”  He likens the behavior to prey animals play-fighting in a journal, The Psychological Benefits of Scary Play in Three Types of Horror Fans. Scrivner believes that engaging in scary play is how humans prepare themselves for the possibility of violence and horrifying situations. 

In a way, this can be observed within the walls of schools. Students fight, the adrenaline kicks in and other students watch. The students subconsciously gather knowledge about how to handle fights in the event they get in one, even if they aren’t planning on it. 

The phenomenon of observing horror as a way to learn how to cope with it has been specifically observed in women, who have been seen to reach for true-crime media rather than gory movies or video games. 

The reasoning behind this could stem from the world around us. For decades, if not centuries, the world has been a harsh and violent place for women everywhere, and the desire women have to protect themselves manifests in true-crime. 

A research study, published on Research Gate, conducted by psychologists Amanda Vicary at Illinois Wesleyan University and R. Chris Fraley at the University of Illinois shows that women more often than men prefer true crime over fiction. The study overall suggests that this is because women wish to prepare themselves in the event that they might become victims of such violent crimes they read about. 

Regardless of gender, the observation of fights in schools may stem from collective anxiety about being in a fight. Teenagers seek to watch a fight to learn how to act and protect themselves if they were to be in the shoes of one of the fighters.

The desire to gape upon a violent scene isn’t a modern schoolkid matter either. Take the French Revolution for example: a bloody revolution that led to the end of many lives, so much so that people lined up to witness the death of nobles who were being sent to death. People shouted and cheered at this display, often wanting more and making it a family event or day out. 

Nowadays, the public display of such gruesome scenes is forbidden, and many would not be so excited to hear of an execution. Nevertheless, the yearning to witness such violence remains within us.

Violent behavior and craving it within media is not a new thing within humans and most likely will never leave us, and with the advancements of media and technology, it seems as though we will only find new ways to indulge this prehistoric behavior.

The hunger for violence is a biological one. Humans, and specifically teenagers, will continue to view and engage in violent acts in an attempt to satiate this evolutionary behavior.

What type of violent media do you consume the most?


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About the Contributor
Krystiana Bernstein
Krystiana Bernstein, Staff Writer
HI! I'm a staff writer for Knight Life. I'm a senior this year and I'm new to Knight Life but I'm really excited to be a part of the team this year. I decided to join because I love to write and I'm passionate about knowledge and spreading awareness about certain topics. When outside of school I enjoy reading and playing games of all sorts, I also play flute and bass guitar.

Comments (3)

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  • J

    John AMar 13, 2024 at 2:14 pm

    Excellent research on this article!

  • M

    Max ProutyMar 12, 2024 at 10:53 pm

    Article very good

  • F

    Foster N-JMar 12, 2024 at 11:31 am Knight Life Pick

    Amazing article, immediately one of my favorites on KnightLife 🙂 good stuff