What Makes Thrill Seekers Seek the Next Big Thrill? A Psychologist Explains

Photo: AFP

The deaths of the five passengers on board the submersible that imploded near the wreck of the Titanic last week has some people questioning why the thrill seekers who risk their lives for a potentially cataclysmic experience do what they do. To answer that question, Dr. Gail Saltz, who is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital, made an appearance on 710 WOR’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning program. Dr. Saltz says these people are just “wired” to feel that the rewards of an activity like blasting off into space or bungee jumping far outweigh the risks.

“Some people are more, let’s say, genetically predisposed or hard-wired, to really seek new sensations,” Dr. Saltz explained to Berman and Riedel. “We might call them thrill seekers or excitement seeking, and for them… they feel more positive feelings, and the negative feelings caused often by, like, anxiety… they feel less of that. Not none of that, but less of that than maybe somebody else.”

As to why the world paid so much attention to the five divers as the search for them unfolded, Dr. Saltz reasons that it’s our way of being there without actually being there. “We can, let’s say, enjoy- I hate to say that- but we enjoy the idea of the risk-taking from the safety of our homes and our seats. We’re not there, we’re not terrorized, but we’re thinking about it, much like you might sit and watch a horror movie, and in that sense, it was pretty riveting.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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