Morbid Curiosity

Morbid Curiosity



Though there is no formal definition, morbid curiosity is typically described as an interest in or curiosity about unpleasant things, especially death. The commercial success of horror films, popularity of true crime television shows, and prevalence of violence in the news implies that the average person possesses some degree of morbid curiosity. Likewise, the presence of death-related phenomena in literature and art and the historical attraction of public executions and gladiatorial fights suggests that morbid curiosity is an old and cross-cultural phenomenon. Despite the ubiquity of morbid material in entertainment, research on morbid curiosity is largely absent from the psychological literature. Moreover, although there is evidence that morbid curiosity is a well-understood lay phenomenon and that there are individual differences in morbid curiosity, no well-validated scale exists. The goal of this project is to create a new Morbid Curiosity Scale (MCS) and evaluate the factor structure of the construct. The scale will be validated using online adult samples, student samples, and attendees at events related to morbid curiosity, such as the Oddities and Curiosities Expo. Finally, functional evolutionary explanations for each facet of morbid curiosity will be proposed.

Below is a cabinet of curiosities I curated to test some ideas about morbid curiosity. While wearing Pupil Invisible mobile eye tracking glasses, participants inspect the cabinet and choose 5 items to manually inspect and 5 items to learn more about. In addition to serving as an external validation of the Morbid Curiosity Scale, the cabient of curiosities will illuminate the relationship between perceptual and epistemic curiosity.

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Coltan Scrivner
PhD Candidate

I investigate the evolution of social cognition and morbid curiosity