App Developers Reveal What ‘Game of Thrones’ Does to Your Heart Rate

According to an interesting new study of viewer heart rates carried out by the developers of the Cardiogram app for Apple Watch, there’s “a certain dramatic tension” in the smash-hit TV show ‘Game of Thrones’, that tends to get the audience’s blood pumping, even more than the epic bouts of violence (via Science Alert). The study is based on 2.3 million measurements from 300 viewers.

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Back in 2015, Cardiogram showed how a particularly intense bout of White Walker zombie action was able to sharply increase heart rate beats-per-minute (BPM). In the 2017 follow-up study titled “What Game of Thrones does to your Heart Rate”, it found that of the top five heart-racing moments, four largely involved dialogue, drama and tension between characters rather than sword-on-sword or dragon-on-army clashes.  

Cardiogram tracked heart rates across the first four episodes of season 7 before crunching the data to see which bits got viewers most excited. Participants were asked to use the app to log their heart rate every five seconds, starting from a quarter of an hour before each episode started.

WARNING! Spoilers below for those first four episodes of season 7.

  • In reverse order, Daenerys interrogation of Varys about some of his previous skullduggery got the audience’s heart rate up to 76 bpm on average, the fifth highest rate across the first four episodes of season 7.
  • Then there’s a tie for third and fourth place:  Euron Greyjoy’s dramatic proposal to Cersei in episode 1, and Davos and Jon’s plea for help to Daenerys in episode 3 both saw a spike to 83 bpm on average.
  • Second in the list was the opening scene of the whole season, when Arya Stark takes her revenge on House Frey in disguise. That had viewers’ heart rates racing all the way up to 83.2 beats per minute, but again it was mostly a dialogue-driven scene.
  • Top of the pile though was a moment that did involve some physical action – with 91 bpm on average, it was Jaime Lannister’s charge against Daenerys and her dragon Drogon, as seen at the end of episode 4.

Well, it looks like drama rather than action is what makes Game of Thrones viewers’ heart rate race.