They have no pulse, no heart beat, and no conscious but the living dead still terrify anyone that currently lives six feet above ground. With their lack of compassion and morals these undead creatures are a threat the world over. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can have the best fortress on the planet but all these hordes need is time. With all these advantages a zombie seems like the ultimate killing machine of the horror world. Yet, why is it that something that has the mental capacity of Lady Gaga can be so terrifying? The answer may be simpler then you think.
Aim for the head
In The Zombie Autopsies, a medical team on a remote island attempts to apply forensic techniques to the living dead in order to cure a zombie plague. Knowing so much about the living the scientists should know everything about the dead, right? According to author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Stephen Schlozman, MD, has an explanation to our fear of the zombie. Writing in a blog post for Psychology Today, the zombie terror we all get comes from a basic human information process: Pattern recognition. We are afraid of these walking meat bags because we recognize them as scary.
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According to Schlozman:
Someone might expect that a man in a dark alley intends to take your wallet, and yet he might think the same of you. We make up our minds quickly in part because the drive to categorize and classify declares itself early and profoundly so we can get by in the world largely on autopilot.
Big whoop, what does that have to do with the walking terror that is a zombie? One key factor of zombie horror is forcing a human being out of their autopilot state, pointing out the obvious to yourself and recognizing that everything isn’t as it should be in that situation.
That guy is staggering, so perhaps he is drunk. But wait! That kid is also staggering, and kids don’t get drunk. And that woman is staggering, and when was the last time I saw three staggerers at the same time? Things are not fitting into my usual patterns. I do not recognize this pattern, and I am therefore forced to switch off automatic and to perilously fly manually. Most of the time we’re flying by instrument, but not now. Now, we need to look around.
If we don’t have that pattern of safety then that’s when our brain starts kicking itself, trying to grasp at some sense of normality. Once there is nothing to grab on to that’s when we begin to fill our pants with more then chocolate pudding. When there’s nothing there that is where fear takes it’s hold.
Gimme something. Anything. And fear sprouts from the depths of your brain, your primitive cortex freaking the hell out and your frontal cortex madly searching the hippocampus for anything even remotely familiar. And this is where you experience horror.
How’s that for terror, it’s not the blood coming off the teeth or the fact they missing a section of their stomach. It’s the fact that you recognize that this “person” isn’t acting in any way normal that your afraid of the. Keep that in mind when the zombie apocalypse starts, you might be one of the lucky ones.