By: Jeremiah Edwards/Staff Writer
The beloved Spooky Season is just around the corner and that means Americans all over the country are ready to partake and collectively feed billions of dollars into the holiday’s festivities. Digging into the roots of the holiday, Halloween dates all the way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, more than 2000 years ago. The Celts would celebrate the end of the year by dressing up as evil spirits. This custom would be brought to America by Irish Immigrants in the 1840s who immigrated due to a potato famine. Though the modern form of the holiday, trick-or-treating, would not be set in fine print until 1927. The first use of the phrase “Trick or Treat” was used by pranksters at houses.
This form of Halloween is one of the most popular holidays Americans celebrate. Over 60% of the population in the country does something to do with the holiday. That 60% spent billions of dollars, $10.14 billion to be exact (in 2021), was spent on costumes, decorations, candy, and even greeting cards. What’s the psychology of this? Why do people feel the need to go all out for this holiday?
The escape from reality may be relieving, apparently consuming all the things that come with Halloween. This is different for everyone as people differ in their chemical responses to thrilling situations. When encountering these situations dopamine is released. For those who enjoy these encounters, their brain seems to lack a brake on the dopamine release, prompting them to find the thrill enjoyable. Really it’s all up to how our brain processes fear. If you’re one of those people who find joy in everything Halloween, good for you. I’m not one of those people. At least for the scary bits. The candy and costumes are great.
The freedom of creativity and expression is something that we all crave one way or another, whether it’s dressing up as your favorite Disney princess or decorating your house with spookiness. It’s helpful to our minds, studies show that engagement in creativity improves mental health by reducing feelings of depression and isolation. Being artistic in any way can enhance moods, reduce anxiety and stress, and alleviate burdens associated with chronic disease.
Psychologists also note another possible reason. The act of dressing up among a group of people they call it “deindividuation.” “Deindividuated individuals do not attend to their own behaviors and lack awareness of themselves as distinct entities,” wrote James Tedeschi, a State University of New York at Albany professor, in The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral and shared by the Daily Emerald. This all comes down to experiencing a new social dynamic. A decreased sense of individuality leading to a possible increase in socializing and connecting with others you wouldn’t otherwise connect with. Of course this is a change of behavior, having this sort of anonymous effect on us. This experiment, addresses three different variables of deindividuation: anonymity vs nonanonymity, alone vs group, and groups with or without a child who was made responsible for the group’s actions. Approximately 1,300 trick or treaters were given the opportunity to steal candy and money. The experiment found that significantly more stealing was observed under conditions of anonymity and in the presence of a group.
It’s safe to say that Halloween has its benefits and its one of the few times of the year where people get to collectivity, express themselves creativity, encounter situations that make them happy, and/or experience a new level of social interaction, whether its good or bad (hopefully not the latter). Halloween is so big, and has so many levels that it’s hard to not find something enjoyable about it, even for someone who doesn’t like the horror and thrill.