On this week's episode of The Walking Dead, a group of characters disguise themselves with gut-ponchos so the walkers won't notice them. Time passes from late afternoon into darkness before one character panics, draws the walkers' attention, and abruptly gets eaten. Someone on Twitter tweeted me, wondering about that: "Please help me understand why he panicked after he had been out there from daylight to dusk."
Today in my "Psych of the Living Dead" class (which is mostly about The Walking Dead but we will also cover Night of the Living Dead), we discussed how panic works in the brain, how the amygdala and other areas of the primitive limbic system can override reason and logic to overwhelm us with fright and the impulse to flee. It's a survival mechanism that can help us escape from danger, but it can also cause problems in the wrong situations.
To the person on Twitter, I offered these tweets in reply:
Students in my class have provided me with their own questions that they hope the course might answer during our semester, questions beyond those addressed in the book The Walking Dead Psychology: Psych of the Living Dead. Which ones we explore will depend somewhat on which ones (1) can be answered using what we know from empirical research and human behavior and (2) have answers that can help my students learn more about psychology and real human behavior.
Here are some of their questions so far:
They also asked plenty of questions that fall outside the realm of psychology (e.g., "What are all the ways that you can turn into a walker?" "Is the outbreak in the rest of the world?" "Is the disease passed through birth?"). Some of those matter in terms of characters' behavior and strategy, but for the most, they're not the ones to explore in a psychology course.
What questions do you have about The Walking Dead's characters and stories? Why do they do the things they do? Feel free to add question to this list or even suggest answers of your own in comments below. Tweet me also as @Superherologist.