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Do you like horror movies? Expert says there's a scientific reason why people love to be scared

Everyone experiences fear — it is one of the most primal emotions. Merriam-Webster describes "fear" simply as "an unpleasant emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger." But is there a science behind it?

New York University Professor of Neural Science Joseph Ledoux has spent much of his life studying the biology of emotion, and more specifically fear. He told "CBS Mornings" co-host Nate Burleson that fear is based on past personal experiences.

"For the most part, the things that make us afraid are things we've learned about. We don't come into the world knowing about guns and knives. But there are certain things that we're predisposed to at least learn about, if not have an automatic response to, snakes and spiders and so forth because our primate ancestors were preyed upon by these when they lived in the trees," he said.

But what's behind the urge to seek out that primal emotion? Are people just looking for a cheap thrill or is more than that? 

"Why do people love horror films? Because they get that rush in a safe context," Ledoux said.

Professor Debbie Felton teaches ancient Roman and Greek classics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She says human beings have been entertaining themselves with fear for thousands of years.

"This sort of human behavior and these types of responses have been going on for thousands of years and aren't just a product of modern society," Felton said.

Procrustes is a Greek mythology character and a blacksmith who would lure weary travelers to his roadside home for rest, only to remove their tired limbs by saw, ax, or hammer. He is considered one of the first serial killers.

"People really don't think of those types of stories when they think of the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans. But there were a bunch of stories that were considered folklore among the people, and we are lucky enough to have some of those stories survive," Felton said.

Fast forward a few thousand years and the horror genre has catapulted itself into the mainstream with films like the 1996 horror classic "Scream," which helped redefine the meaning of fear. 

Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin are the directors behind the latest chapter of the "Scream" saga. It's the long-awaited return of a franchise.  The upcoming movie will be a reboot but a sequel that will be released next year. 

Some of the original actors including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and the iconic voice of Roger Jackson will be back in this movie.

It's the first "Scream" movie without legendary filmmaker Wes Craven, who died in 2015. Craven's work on the 1984 film "A Nightmare on Elm Street" introduced a new generation to the genre, including Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin.

"What do you think it is about fear that people enjoy?" Burleson asked.

"It's the desire of having a shared experience, right? Our mortality, it's the thing that we all at the end of the day have in common. And so to get to be in a place where you can have that exercised in a really, you know, in a really real and emotive and communal way," Gillett said. "And honestly, also what we love about making scary movies." 

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