Voluntary arousing negative experiences (VANE): Why we like to be scared.

This study examined survey data and neural reactivity associated with voluntarily engaging in high arousal negative experiences (VANE). Here we suggest how otherwise negative stimuli might be experienced as positive in the context of voluntary engagement. Participants were recruited from customers who had already purchased tickets to attend an “extreme” haunted attraction. Survey data measuring self-report affect, expectations, and experience was collected from 262 adults (139 women and 123 men; age M = 27.5 years, SD = 9.3 years) before and after their experience. Changes in electroencephalographic (EEG) indices of reactivity to cognitive and emotional tasks were further assessed from a subsample of 100 participants. Results suggested that participants’ reported affect improved, particularly for those that reported feeling tired, bored, or stressed prior to the experience. Among those whose moods improved, neural reactivity decreased in response to multiple tasks. Together, these data suggest that VANE reduces neural reactivity following stress. This result could explain post-VANE euphoria and may be adaptive in that it could help individuals to cope with subsequent stressors. To the extent that this phenomenon replicates in clinical situations, it could inform clinical interventions by using VANE principles to reduce neural reactivity to subsequent stressors. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)