Coltan Scrivner received a 2020 Graduate Student Fellowhip from the Social Sciences Research Center (SSRC) for his dissertation, "The Psychology of Morbid Curiosity."
Are you curious about what Gladiatorial fights in the Coliseum of Ancient Rome were like? Have you ever wondered how an autopsy is performed? Would you watch a documentary about a famous serial killer? If there was a supposedly haunted place in your city, would you be tempted to visit? Most people would answer yes to at least one of these questions. But why are people curious about phenomena that might be classified as morbid? Surprisingly, psychologists have largely ignored morbid curiosity as a topic of study. In this research project, Scrivner investigates the psychological nature of morbid curiosity by creating the Morbid Curiosity Scale (MCS), evaluating its ability to predict behavioral outcomes, and assessing its relationship with personality. For example, one task involves participants inspecting a cabinet of curiosities while wearing eye tracking glasses. After inspection, participants choose a few items to pick up and inspect and a few items to learn more about, allowing for the differentiation of perceptual and epistemic curiosity about morbid items. In addition to a community sample, some participants will be recruited from a morbid curiosity carnival in Denver, Colorado and an Oddities and Curiosities Expo in Chicago, Illinois.