Man at His Best

'Benign Masochism': The Theory That Explains Why You Enjoy Chillies, Depressing Music And Rollercoasters

The science of why we're 'glad to be sad'​.

BY Olivia Ovenden | Sep 9, 2016 | Fitness & Health

There's always one person who goes for the spiciest curry on the menu while sweating profusely and throwing back pints of water still claiming he's enjoying it. 

Chillis aren't the only way people like to enjoy something punishing—many people get off on watching sad films, listening to depressing music or riding terrifying rollercoasters. 

Benign masochism is a term coined by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin and Kendra Pierre-Louis at Aeon. It refers to the list of seemingly unpleasant activities that lots of people get a kick out of. 

Rozin explained why in his paper for journal Judgement and Decision Making titled 'Glad to be sad':

"Benign masochism refers to enjoying initially negative experiences that the body (brain) falsely interprets as threatening. This realisation that the body has been fooled, and that there is no real danger, leads to pleasure derived from 'mind over body.'" 

The theory focuses on the negative physical experiences of these actions like your tongue burning from the spice of a red chilli or stomach dropping in the loop of a rollercoaster. 

Interestingly the research found women were more likely to enjoy the depressing effects of a sad film while men more likely to seek out the sharp alcoholic burn from whisky. 

From: Esquire UK.