Unless you’re jumping by parachute, bungee, or hang gliding, few emotions can compare to that feeling of fear, excitement, and vertigo that you get when you ride a roller coaster, but if you’ve ever wondered what makes this type of ride a success, here’s what.
Suppose you are one of those people who spend their time looking for the “fun rides near me” and plan in detail their trip to ride them. In that case, you know perfectly well that roller coasters are more than a modern type of entertainment, and they are getting bigger, faster, and more exciting thanks to technological advances.
Today, amusement parks are big business. Many people train for up to eight hours to enjoy an attraction that usually lasts less than two minutes. At first glance, it might seem that one is looking to experience speed; however, the evidence of the connection between sensation-seeking and rate is not convincing.
Perhaps we are drawn to roller coasters because we enjoy the visceral sensation of fear itself, as is the case with horror movies. The physical signs of anxiety, including palpitations, rapid breathing, and increased energy caused by glucose release, are collectively known as the “fight or flight reaction.
We know that it is possible for a physiological response to being triggered by riding a roller coaster, thanks to researchers who, in the 1980s, measured the heart rate of roller coaster users in Glasgow.
Heartbeats per minute increased to more than double the average: from 70 before the ride to 153 shortly after the ride began. Some users came very close to what might be considered a health risk at their age. But it’s all worth it for that sense of well-being, alertness, and euphoria just after getting off the ride. They also showed elevated levels of endorphins in their blood, a hormone known to produce intense pleasure feelings.
It is worth noting that the higher the levels of endorphins present, the more euphoric people usually feel.
Many know the feeling generated by riding a roller coaster as positive stress, so they actively seek it out. Those who seek the emotions of riding a roller coaster perceive the experience as stressful but positively. Roller coasters are not to everyone’s liking. So people with higher levels of endorphins feel higher levels of euphoria.
A recent review looked at the role of dopamine, another chemical messenger in the brain that is important for the functioning of neurological reward systems. The study found that individuals with higher levels of dopamine also scored higher on measures of sensation-seeking behavior.
Although this is a correlation rather than causality, another study found that taking a haloperidol substance, which temporarily suppresses the effects of dopamine in the brain, led to a measurable decrease in sensation-seeking behavior.
This research line proposes the exciting possibility that the enjoyment of intense physical experiences–like riding a roller coaster–may reflect individual differences in brain chemistry.
People who have higher dopamine levels may be more prone to various sensation-seeking behaviors, ranging from innocent roller coaster riding to more extreme experiences.
Although difficult to understand, people enjoy roller coasters because of a combination of speed, fear of conquest, and the positive effects of a massive increase in physiological excitement.
Riding a roller coaster is a legal, usually safe, and relatively accessible activity that allows one to experience natural excitement.
Therefore, it makes sense that, for centuries, people have paid to do this type of activity. There seems to be no sign that the desire for some positive stress will disappear in the future, so now you are ready to look for “fun rides near me” and experience first-hand a handful of various sensations.