Introduction: The objective of this experiment is to determine the effect of fear on the human heart. In one study, scientists studied autonomic reactivity in subjects while they were viewing a disturbing video. In this study, researchers found that while viewing the disturbing film, heart rate decreased at first followed by a slight increase and then the heart rate was found to slow down again. (Baldaro et al. 2001). A study done on rats corroborates the same response where after viewing an adverse or frightful image the heart rate slows down. (J.M.J Knippenberg et al. 2012). Another study where rats and mice were subject to different types of fearful situations similar results were found. The mice would often exhibit bradycardia or a deceleration in heart rate when subject to fear stimuli. (Liu 2014). Other sources say that in response to fear the heart rate increases due to your bodies flight or fight response. (abcnews.go.com/Health…2015). Based on these studies, we tested to see if humans exhibited a similar fear reaction when playing a scary game. I predict there will be a slight decrease in the human subject’s heart rate and blood pressure when they are exposed to the frightening image and sounds within the game. For the null hypothesis we would expect there to be no change in the heart rate and blood pressure of the human subject after playing the game. This experiment is significant because it could offer insight into human responses to startling, fear-inducing audio and visual stimuli, particularly in the setting of a video game. Due to their ubiquity in society, video games could have the potential to change how our brain reacts to certain situations. Research into video game stimuli and its various effects on the human brain and instinctual responses–such as our instinctual responses to fear— is necessary to determine if video games could be negatively affecting necessary emotional and physical responses in humans.
Materials and Methods: For the experiment, we utilized sphygmomanometers to measure systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as pulse. The data were analyzed using a paired T-test where the subjects mean blood pressure and pulse was compared before and after being scared. We utilized a scary online game in which a person would move a cube through a maze and after a certain number of levels a scary image popped on the screen and screaming noises were played. The subject first took three baseline readings of their blood pressure and pulse and found their average basal blood pressure while sitting. After doing so, the subject remained seated and played the game once. The subject measured their blood pressure and pulse immediately after being scared by the game and took additional readings every two minutes after being scared for six minutes. Readings were recorded and put into an excel spreadsheet. The independent variable was the scary game that was played. The dependent variable was the subjects blood pressure and pulse. The standardized variables were how long the person played the game, how often they measured their blood pressure, how they played the game (sitting v. standing), and how often they played the game (1 time).
Baldaro B, Mazzetti M, Codispoti M, Tuozzi G, Bolzani R, Trombini G. Autonomic Reactivity during Viewing of an Unpleasant Film. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 2001;93(3):797-805.
Liu J, Wei W, Kuang H, Tsien JZ, Zhao F. Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability Assessment Identifies Individual Differences in Fear Response Magnitudes to Earthquake, Free Fall, and Air Puff in Mice. PLoS ONE. 2014 Mar 24 accessed 2018 Jan 30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3965551/
Mohney G. The Science of Fear: What Happens to Your Body After a Good Scare. ABC News. 2015 Oct 30 accessed 2018 Jan 30. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/science-fear-body-good-scare/story?id=34855202
J.M.J K, R.J. B, M.J K, G. van L. Fast, transient cardiac accelerations and decelerations during fear conditioning in rats. Physiology & Behavior. 2011 Sep 28 accessed 2018 Jan 30. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938411004677