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A study by the California Institute of Technology found that having more people surrounding you for support when you feel afraid isn’t helpful. The researchers came to this conclusion after asking people to go through a haunted house.

Researchers found that people who went through the haunted houses in groups became more afraid. Moreover, their fear increased as they visited more rooms. They concluded that the physical response was increased in people surrounded by others when they were scared.

The team also mentioned that people could become more afraid when fearful people surround them despite being generally calm when they are by themselves.

How researchers conducted the study

The study participants asked the volunteers to go through a haunted house with 17 rooms. During the duration of the study, the participants wore wristbands that monitored their physiological activities. The experience lasted about 30 minutes. Researchers exposed the volunteers to various stimuli meant to scare them, such as the sound of shots from a firing squad, oncoming cars, and situations that made them feel like they would be likely to be suffocated.

The team found that if a group of volunteers had more friends, their tonic arousal was higher. Tonic arousal refers to the body’s reaction to emotion and stress. Moreover, participants who responded strongly to the first room would have stronger reactions as they ventured to others.

The researchers looked into different aspects of skin conductance

According to a lead study author, Dr. Sarah Tashjian, many factors influence response to threats. These include subjective feelings of fear, threat predictability, and the fear a friend near you exhibited. The team concluded that if a friend near you demonstrates strong reactions to threats, it could elicit a reaction in your body, making you more afraid even when there aren’t any explicit threats. Dr. Tashjian notes that studying group physiology in a man could be challenging.

The team noted that they monitored various skin conductance aspects. These are response levels, fast responses, response frequency, and slow responses. This move makes the study unique as others only focus on one part, thus restricting our knowledge of fear and group physiology.

The researchers published their findings in the Psychological Science journal.