I scream, you scream, actually that's still me screaming
January 30, 2019 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Human screams occupy a privileged niche in the communication soundscape: "We found that screams occupy a reserved chunk of the auditory spectrum, but we wanted to go through a whole bunch of sounds to verify that this area is unique to screams," says Poeppel, who also directs the Frankfurt Max-Planck-Institute Department of Neuroscience. "In a series of experiments, we saw [that] this observation remained true when we compared screaming to singing and speaking, even across different languages. The only exception--and what was peculiar and cool--is that alarm signals (car alarms, house alarms, etc.) also activate the range set aside for screams." [paper pdf]
posted by not_the_water (17 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
This would explain why I get equally upset/angry at honking as I do as someone yelling near or at me.

I wonder if this applies to "quiet screaming," that kind of whispery voice you do to quietly indicate or quote people screaming without doing so yourself.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:55 PM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


Interesting, maybe revising laws on car horn designs and use could help with road rage and driver stressors, and even reduce traffic accidents long term.
posted by polymodus at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


An unintended consequence of having horns not sound like screams would be that horns might then be far less effective at getting people's attention, which is basically their sole purpose.
posted by tclark at 4:22 PM on January 30, 2019 [7 favorites]


You could make then sing Dixie!
(How come we in the north don't get a kick ass song?)
posted by symbioid at 4:24 PM on January 30, 2019


You know, you *can* get a car alarm that plays the first 12 notes of "Dixie." Consequences might not be as expected if you honk that in urban areas....
posted by CrowGoat at 4:47 PM on January 30, 2019


tl;ds

too loud, did scream
posted by lalochezia at 4:48 PM on January 30, 2019


(How come we in the north don't get a kick ass song?)

Oh I don't know, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" might sound pretty badass transposed to a car horn.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 5:01 PM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


An unintended consequence of having horns not sound like screams would be that horns might then be far less effective at getting people's attention, which is basically their sole purpose.

Yeah, car horns and alarms, the things that literally everyone ignores all the time already.
posted by axiom at 5:08 PM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" might sound pretty badass transposed to a car horn.

Only if you put it in this car.
posted by neckro23 at 5:16 PM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


The General Grant is awesome. I wish the Union mythologized its part in the Civil War half as much as the Confederacy did. People should be proud—we ended slavery and we saved America.

Anyway, this all reminds me of one of my favorite biology factoids, which I'm not going to look up in case it turns out not to be true, and which is this: the sensitivity peak in the human auditory range corresponds to the same frequency at which human babies cry.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:25 PM on January 30, 2019 [6 favorites]


I think this is interesting because I definitely react differently to a car horn than i do a scream.

Unless the horn comes through in a radio ad while I’m in the car. Then all bets are off.
posted by disclaimer at 5:46 PM on January 30, 2019


I think this vehicle could do with Battle Hymn
posted by kokaku at 5:50 PM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


i credit the authors' assertion that modulation power spectrum is "a particularly useful tool in auditory neuroscience because it provides a neurally and ecologically relevant parameterization of sounds," and i gawk at the figures, but i do not understand modulation power spectrum's representation of the "time-frequency power in modulation across both spectral and temporal dimensions," though i recognize each of the words. pretty colors tho.

the fascinating section titled "dissonant intervals elicit temporal modulations in the rough regime" concludes
This result reveals that dissonant sounds elicit temporal modulations in the spectro-temporal regime that is also exploited to communicate danger and hence nicely dovetails von Helmholtz’s intuition that roughness constitutes one possible biological origin of dissonance. Note that the aim here is merely to revisit Helmholtz’s hypothesis in the light of the observation that there is a surprising convergence between roughness, screams, and dissonance.
not really knowing what they mean by "roughness" but assuming my assumption--that i do intuitively/experientially know--is true, i would quibble with "the observation that roughness induces an unpleasant percept," which i had not observed being established, find distastefully simplistic, and think my intuitive sense of roughness disagrees. is sourness an "unpleasant" percept? piquancy? a diminished chord? scratching an itch?

also would quibble with their comparisons to a capella singing and musical instruments, because i have hear strings and woodwinds and reeds and brass voice what i think "roughness" indicates, and shrieky glam metal, and many flavors of death metal (which, come to think of it, like punk, likely is screaming because it induces an unpleasant percept), and not a little blues. isn't roughness just what the distortion effect does to an electric guitar?
posted by 20 year lurk at 6:49 PM on January 30, 2019


supplemental figures and tables chased through links from the original article.
posted by 20 year lurk at 7:15 PM on January 30, 2019


One time I was supervising some kids at a small beach club in the eastern Caribbean. A repetitive and disturbing scream began rolling down the hill which sent a few of the adult guests scurrying around for staff. A rescue team was assembled and eventually the victim was recovered from a thicket.
posted by stinkfoot at 7:35 PM on January 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


How about goat screams?
posted by Burhanistan at 6:50 AM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Isn't this . . . already pretty well known? Maybe I just read a lot of stuff about acoustics, but like, "the screaming of sirens" and "howling wind" both operate in a similar frequency at a certain level of what they call "roughness" (also known as "noise") which you can replicate pretty easily by just low-passing some pink noise. Foley artists e.g. have been playing with these effects for close to a century.

From the article:
The finding is also evidence that acoustical engineers have been tapping into the property of roughness just by trial and error.
I love it when scientists from one discipline write off decades of work in another with which they have only bothered to gain a passing familiarity. This is frankly bullshit - acoustical engineers may not have documented the specific neuroscience at work, but they damn sure aren't just working from trial and error. It's a mature field.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:54 AM on January 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


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