The Science of Fear

Comedian and political satirist Samantha Bee turned to Ursinus lecturer Margee Kerr during a skit about climate change on her late night talk program.

The tongue-in-cheek segment appeared on the TBS program Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, hosted by the former The Daily Show correspondent.

Kerr studies the creative ways we engage with thrilling and scary material. She is currently co-investigator with Greg Siegle, an associate professor of psychiatry, psychology and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh, on a protocol measuring emotions in the real world.

The two scholars are assessing the motivations and consequences of choosing to engage with positive and negative high arousal stimuli (going skydiving or entering haunted houses, for example).

“Our objective is to understand how this engagement varies by demographic, and the conditions under which engaging in negative high arousal stimuli results in positive gains,” Kerr says.

Kerr has experience researching the history of medicine, doctor-patient communication, and health social movements. She is the author of SCREAM: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear (PublicAffairs, 2015).

For more on Kerr’s research, visit