Jump Scare Heart Rate Study

We will measure the heart rate of two different groups when they see a relaxing clip that changes to a jump scare. One group will know its coming and the other will not.
Eloise Palmer Marybelle O'Brien
Grade 7


We think that our particpants heart rates will increase at the jump scares. We suppose their heart rates will not increase drastically but that it will increase when compared to their average bpm during the calm clips. Based on our personal knowledge and experience, we think that their heart rates will increase prior to the scare if they know it's coming due to suspense, anticipation and their lack of knowledge (they will not have acess to much information about the scare if they are informed of it).



Anxiety and the ANS 

Anxiety is a response to stress. It's a dread and worry of some perceived threat, real or imagined. It's not just in the mind though. It can trigger the ANS or the autonomic nervous system. This is also known as the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. The ANS helps regulate the heart, lungs, digestive system and various muscles throughout the body. This is why the ‘fight or flight’ reaction happens. Your worries activate responses such as heart palpitations, rapid breathing, muscle tension, sweating, feeling tired, stomach problems, or trembling. 

As people we each feel fear, this fear was and is essential to our survival. The fight or flight response is a way our body protects itself. During scary experiences such as walking through a haunted house,  going on a roller coaster or watching a creepy movie, something scary might happen. At this scary instance fear kicks in and different parts of the human brain are activated. The fight or flight response is a way to describe the human bodies reaction to danger or percieved danger. This rush of your bodies chemicals can protect you in a stressful or dangerous situation. So why would we use jump scares and controlled scary moments to feel thrill? When someone feels in danger our feels fear, different parts of the brain are activated and certain hormones are released into your body. The human body sometimes feels pleasure after or during a controlled scary moment. This occurs because during and after those times dopamine can be released. Dopamine is a hormone that gives pleasure and this is the chemical that sometimes is sent throughout the body after and, or during scary movies, clips, roller coasters, ext. After the threat has passed the flight or fight reaction fades and is replaced with the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps you calm down and ‘rest and digest’. It is at this time the dopamine can be released. The parasympathetic nervous system also contributes to making you feel that calming relief that the monster under your bed didn’t eat you. This can explain why some people like scary things! Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center states that “Generally, people who watch horror films tend to enjoy them for a variety of reasons, so for most viewers, it is a positive impact.”

The flight or fight response is a survival mechanism - Harvard Health (March 2011 and updated July 6 2020). As a human being our body has a way to protect us in a stressful or dangerous situation. If we were in danger our brain would almost instantaneously activate hormones and brain functions to protect us. This survival mechanism will give us adrenaline and nondrenaline, and our body will decide whether to fight the danger or flight it (escape the danger). 

When this survival mechanism is activated many things start to happen within a person. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are activated and are sent throughout the body. Some things that occur or may occur during this time help prepare the human for survival. Some of these preparations are: 

 - Blood Redistribution (the body may send the blood to more important vital organs, this can sometimes prevent over bleeding. If someone was cut on the fingers or somewhere else they would bleed less because therse is a reduced amount  of blood in that area. Since the body does this, discolouration of the face can be normal before, during and after a flight or fight situation. Sometimes people will feel a numbeness or will lose the feeling in their fingers and toes because more of their blood is in their vital organs instead of the toes and or fingers).- Centre for Clinical Interventions (unknown date)

- Change in breathing patterns (sometimes the body will prepare for a fight or an escape by changing the breathing patterns)- Centre for Clinical Interventions (unknown date)

-An increase in the human heart rate (the heart rate may speed up or become more powerful in a stressful situation, this pumps blood throughout the body at a faster pace and is common during fight or flight. This also allows the body to prepare for the possible physical activity nessicary for survival.)- Centre for Clinical Interventions (unknown date)

-More happens to the human body during the fight or flight response. We mentioned these responses because they were the most related to our project and the knowledge nessicary to conduct our project.

Anxiety and Horror Movies

“[When watching horror films], your heart pumps and the adrenaline flows, and your attention narrows in, even as you know you are at home or in the theatre and there is no real danger.” States Sally Winston, licensed psychologist and executive director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland. According to Winston, horror or scary movies are perfectly okay to watch for those with anxiety, if they can process what's real and what's not. In this experiment we are using adult participants, we assume that our particpants are going to be able to process what's real and what's not.

All movies try to elicit emotions from the watchers, whether its fear, stress, sadness, happiness, or tension. Horror movies tend to focus on drawing out stress, fear, and tension. They add in bits of sad or happy moments to relax you, just to get you riled up again.

A more recent studyshows horror movie lovers, those who watch scary movies often, are coping better with the emotional drain that comes with the COVID-19 pandemic. Science Direct states “Conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study tested whether past and current engagement with thematically relevant media fictions, including horror and pandemic films, was associated with greater preparedness for and psychological resilience toward the pandemic.” When they finished they took their results and concluded. “These results are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to frightening fictions allow audiences to practice effective coping strategies that can be beneficial in real-world situations'' 


Have you ever felt that rush of adrenaline and felt like you could run forever? Sometimes when some people get the fight or flight experience their adrenaline will give them somewhat super strength!! This experience sometimes occurs to people and it is referred to as hysterical strength. Reports of people lifting items several times their weight seems unreal but some people report to have seen it! These accounts are not definitely accurate, but stories of people lifting cars to save others they care about have dotted the news and internet. So why do we sometimes get a burst of inhuman strength? According to  Pen state site, Superhuman strength can occur when adrenaline and noradrenaline are released (noradrenaline is a chemical released during the fight or flight response that can change your blood pressure and or heart rate). Super human strength has yet to be proven by the scientific method due to saftey hazards required for testing- Montana Telman (October 7 2015). According to theory and reports it normally occurs when there is a life or death situation and chemicals are activated, just like the fight or flight reaction it happens in stress related situations and can save lives. 

Side Notes and Vocabulary:

Here are reports on super human strength: 

The highest ever recorded heart rate was 480 bpm. Crazy right?


Heart Palpitations: When the heart pounds, is fast beated, or flutters. Things that can trigger them include stress, exercise, medication or, rarely, or a medical condition.

Hormones: Your body's chemicals.

Adrenaline: A hormone produced by the body when something exciting, nerve wracking or dangerous happens.



Independant: If the participant was informed of the scare or not.

Dependant: The changes in the participants heart rate.

Controlled: The video with the scares, the monitor recording the participants heart rate, the phone connected to the monitor that stores the data, the forms we sent out and the kit and instructions within the kit. 



 We will select ten subjects to participate in our testing. After agreeing to a specific time, we will bring a kit to their house. Within this kit there will be forms, sanitizing products, a pencil, a phone and an arm band heart rate monitor.

To begin, the subject will read the instructions provided in the kit, next they will put the heart rate monitor on their arm and set the phone to record their heart rate, according to the instructions. Our subjects will fill out the consent form and the part one to our questionnaire. Our volunteer will have been instructed to watch a clip provided and they will move on to do so. As the subject watches they will experience calming sounds and clips until the scare.

Once the video has concluded they will complete the second part of the questionnaire, sanitize their hands and the items they have touched and will proceed to returning the kit.

After the kit is returned it will be sanitized again and after collecting some data from that experiment, we will reset the kit and pass it on the next participant.

When all the data has been collected we will analyze and compare the facts, looking for similarities in heart patterns and considering background information and more. This will send us toward the conclusion of our project.

The scare video is at the bottom of our page in attachments if you would like to watch it. 




Scare times:

First Scare at about 3.21 minutes. 

The dog scene starts (with dog walking) at ~2.59 minutes and ends at around ~3.26 minutes. 

Second scare at about 4.49 minutes (older scare so they might recognize it).

The car scene starts at ~4.40 minutes and ends at ~4.53. 


Butterfly subject 1 


Beginning: 77 bpm  Mid-Beginning: unknown (malfunction with the monitor)  Middle: 63 bpm Mid-End: 67 bpm   End: 62 bpm

Butterfly Subject 1 had a heart rate average of ~71 bpm during the first scare and a heart rate surrounding ~69-73 bpm during the second scare (maximum of 73 bpm and a minimum of 69 bpm during the time surrounding and or during the scare) 


Butterfly subject 2 

Beginning:  96 bpm    Mid-Beginning: 78 bpm   Middle: 76 bpm    Mid-End: 74 bpm   End: 70 bpm

Butterfly Subject 2 had an average heart rate of ~78 bpm during the first scare and an average of 69 bpm during the second scare. 


Butterfly subject 3


Beginning: 90 bpm  Mid-Beginning: 88 bpm  Middle: 77 bpm   Mid-End: 81 bpm   End: 80 bpm   

Butterfly Subject 3 had an average heart rate of ~81 bpm during the first scare and a heart rate of ~83 bpm during the second scare. 


Butterfly subject 4


Beginning: 99 bpm   Mid-Beginning: 89 bpm  Middle: 84 bpm  Mid-End: 87 bpm  End: 87 bpm

Butterfly subject 4 had an average heart rate of ~85 bpm during the first scare and a heart rate of ~ 94 bpm during the second scare. 


The black line highlights a similar dip or decrease in heart rate at a similar point… so basically at around the same point the participants heart rate decreased.

The blue line highlights a similar spike or increase in heart rate at a similar point… the participants heart rate rose slightly at a similar point. 

The yellow highlights are similarities in spikes of the heart rate between certain tests…


According to the polar flow app 


Subject 1: Had an average heart rate of 68 bpm (keep in mind it could possibly be erred because of the movement of the band making his average also include the 0 bpm that was caused by improper wearing of the monitor band).Had a maximum heart rate of 81 bpm and a minimum heart rate of 0 bpm (malfunction) so I looked and found it to be about 60 bpm (for the minimum).  


Subject 2: Had an average heart rate of 77 bpm. Had a maximum heart rate of 97 bpm and a minimum heart rate of 66. 


Subject 3: Had an average heart rate of 81 bpm. Had a maximum heart rate of 92 bpm and a minimum heart rate of 75. 


Subject 4: Had an average heart rate of 88 bpm. Had a maximum heart rate of 100 bpm and a minimum heart rate of 81. 


The average heart rate of group  Butterfly is 78.5 beats per minute. 


Beginning: 90.5 

Mid-Beginning: 85

Scare # 1: 78.75

Middle: 75

Scare #2: 79.25


End: 74.75


Zebra subject 1 

Average throughout: 68 bpm

Max: 80 bpm

Min: 61 bpm

First Scare Average: 65.77 bpm

Second Scare Average: 68.42 bpm


Zebra subject 2:

Average throughout: 80 bpm

Max: 90 bpm

Min: 68 bpm

First Scare Average: 82.88 bpm

Second Scare Average: Unknown due to error of monitor (it didn’t pick up participants heart rate) 


Zebra subject 3:

Average throughout: 72 bpm

Max: 77 bpm

Min: 68 bpm

First Scare Average: 73 bpm

Second Scare Average: 74 bpm


Zebra subject 4:

Average throughout: 66 bpm

Max: 85 bpm

Min: 59 bpm

First Scare Average: 67.50 bpm

Second Scare Average: 83.33 bpm


Zebra subject 5:

Average throughout: 74 bpm

Max: 89 bpm

Min: 56 bpm

First Scare Average: 79.80 bpm 

Second Scare Average: 68.33 bpm





Once the testing had concluded we observed the data in the polar flow app and on google drive (where we had uploaded all the survey results). To begin analysing the collected data we assigned each person a number (ex: butterfly subject 1,  zebra subject 2...), this helped us identify the subject without mentioning their name. We then pasted a screen shot of the participants heart rate during the video in our log book. Below this image we noted their maximum, minimum and average heart rate during the test.

Next we looked at certain points in the recording and noted what each participants average heart rate was at those specific points. We noted the average beats per minute at the beginning, the mid-beginning, the middle, the mid-end and the end of the recording. We also wrote each participants average heart rate during the first scare and the second scare. We did not know  when exactly the scares took place since the participant may have started the recording before they started the video or visa versa, meaning the only way to find this average was to estimate the point it had occurred. We had already calculated the time in the video that the scares had occurred, so we went to that point in the recording and looked around that area for a slight change. Using this informed estimation were able to assign certain areas in each recording as the first and second scare.

After finding each individuals average heart rate we calculated the overall averages of that group. For example, group butterfly had an average of 90.5 bpm at the beginning of the video. We did this for the important points in the test (beginning, mid-beginning, middle, scare 1...).

With all his new data in our logbook we made two line graphs, one for each group. Later we made a graph comparing the overall heart rate of the groups. Finally we made charts for extra data such as the percentage of people who said they liked or didn’t like scary movies and or videos. Now that we had access to charts with our data, we were able to furthermore analyze what we had collected. The first thing that we noticed was that group butterfly had a higher average heart rate the entire time.

This new data we had uncovered allowed us to decide if our hypothesis was correct. Our hypothesis stated that those who were informed of the scare (group butterfly) would have a higher heart rate prior to  the actual scare, due to anticipation. We believed that if they anticipated the scare, that their average beats per minute would increase before the scare happened. When we looked at the graph that compared the groups we realised this to be true. Group butterfly had a higher average heart rate prior to the scare when compared to group zebra. The data didn’t stop there. Group butterfly had a higher average heart rate overall! Our test results have lead us to blame anticipfor groupr butterflies higher heart rates. We belive this because we personally feel anticipation on the rollercoaster or before a frightening scene happens in a movie. This feeling is sometimes like a drop or a burst of energy and we feel our heart rates rise. These personal experiences have let us concur that anticipation raised their heart rates and let them have a more beats per minute during the video. This data has proven our hypothesis correct, as well as expand what we perceived to occur. This was how we analysed the data we collected in our jump scare heart rate study.




           From our results we have concluded that our hypothesis was correct. During the average group heart rates, we noticed the group Butterfly, the group that knew the scares were coming, had a higher heart rate when compared to group Zebra who were not informed of the scares. In our personal, scary movie watching experience, if we know a scare is coming but have not watched the movie, we get nervous, and our rate starts to rise at a faster pace. The music, the set of the scene or, in our tests case, us telling participants there is a scare, are all clues that something big is going to happen.

           One thing we did not suspect would occur, was that the Butterfly group constantly had a higher heart rate. We did not tell them there would be two different scares just that there would be scares. So it could be expected there heart rate would drop excessively after the first scare because they knew that it was over. It did not drop though. It stayed slightly higher than Zebra after the first scare. Butterflies high heart rates were what we hypothesized. In our hypothesis we stated “We suppose their heart rate will not increase drastically but it will increase from their average in the calm part to the scare.”. This was true for both groups. Their heart rate spiked during the scares but not drastically. Overall our experiment was a success, it proved our notion about heart rate during scares. 

So our discovery is that knowing a scare or mutiple scares will eventually come, can raise the human heart rate while watching a video.



This science project currently serves us personally as knowledge. It shows us how powerful our brains can be and how being scared effects our heart rate. If we were able to expand and dive deeper into this study we believe that we could access more knowledge on our autonomic nervous system, anxiety and overall more about the human heart rate. We could try to figure out if or why watching scary movies can be harmful for people with heart conditions. Expanding our research could have us learning what fear does to people with these conditions and help us discover what things can help lower a persons heart rate in an emergency situation. This research could enable us to figure out how fast the heart rate can change and could eventually lead us to a way to calm a raging heart rate during a panic attack or trauma. There are so many possibilities for us to expand and apply our research to and this project could just be the beginning. 

Sources Of Error

  • Uneven test subjects numbers (more people in group zebra)
  • Miscalculation in averages 
  • Small test subject range (not a lot of test subjects)
  • Monitor malfunction (inaccurate data) 
  • Error in test (subject could have performed test wrong and or lied on survey) 
  • Distraction during test (we could not ensure that subject had no distractions during testing)



Scrivener, Coltan, J. J., J. K., M. C., (2020). Pandemic 


            practice: Horror fans and morbidly curious individuals are more psychologically resilient 


            during the COVID-19 pandemic. Science Direct.!


Rutledge, Pamela, (2020). Are horror movies bad for your mental health?. Healthline. 




Winston, Sally, (2020). Are horror movies bad for your mental health?. Healthline.




Jungle Vlog, (December 23 2018). Jungle creek ‘Kleine Falawatra test footage. Youtube.  




Uscenes relaxing videos, (July 28 2013). Fireplace video country cottage. Youtube. 




EX films, (March 21 2016). Free stock footage (free clip) sea waves. Youtube. 




Rune Lilleeng, (May 21 2014). Short fireworks show (FWSim). Youtube. 




Marco88324, (March 31 2006). German car commercial. Youtube. 




Marshall, F. (Director). (2006). 8 Below. [Film]. Walt Disney Studios. 


Montana Telman, (October 7 2015). Superhuman Strength. Sites at Penn State. 




Centre for Clinical Interventions, (unknown date). What is Anxiety Information Sheet.






Harvard Health, (March 2011 and updated July 6 2020). Understanding the Stress Response. Harvard Health Publishing. 





We would like to thank and acknowledge,


Our parents and families (they helped us in so many ways),

Our testing participents (they were the best!!),

Our Science fair coordinator,

Our science fair club members, for some music,

All sites used for photos throughout our project (names in log book),

All sites used for research (noted in citations and below),

The Polar company, their Polar 0H1 Heart Monitor,

The Polar Beat app and the Polar Flow app, 


and Infogram. 


We would like to acknowledge sites we used to gain more knowledge about the human heart rate and anxiety,


Medical news today,

Hopkins medicine, 

Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland,

Science Direct,

National Geographic,


MPR center, 

Northwestern Medicine, 

Harvard Health Publishing,

And CCI Health.

Research Acknowledgment Links::