The Science of Screaming

It’s that time of year again.  Halloween is fast approaching, which means haunted houses and scary pranks are right around the corner.  We will hear our fair share of shrieks and screams Halloweekend, but do we actually know why we do it.  What causes our bodies to let out these loud, piercing noises?  What do the screams mean to those around us?  Well, lucky for you guys, I did some research.woman-screaming

David Poeppel, a Professor of New York University, did tests on different types of screams, whether they be from movies, video clips, or actual people.  The sounds were measured in comparison to normal sounds made when simply talking.  In addition, and what seems to be thee key piece of this study, was how our brains interpreted these sounds.  Normally, sounds go through the cochlea and are sent to our auditory cortex in our brains for interpretation.  There, we decide gender, who is talking, and other important details to help us understand the sound.  With screams, these sounds are sent specifically to the amygdala to be interpreted.  The amygdala is responsible for emotions, specifically fear.  This shows that we scream to make the fear circuitry aware of what is going on.

So what does this mean for us?  If we were not able to scream, we would be caught in very dangerous situations.  When we scream, not only do we alert those around us that there is some sort of danger near, but it can also be a powerful weapon when facing someone trying to harm us.

While these are all good points, I feel as though the study could have gone more in depth as far as studying these screams.

I want to look at the types of screams and what they mean.  First, I would get a larger randomized sample of people.  I would forget the videos in total.  I would then randomly assign everyone in the sample to either something happy that they would scream about, or something scary.  For example: A happy thing could be telling them that they were receiving $100,000 for participating in this study.  A scary thing would be to attack them with people in costumes or do a pop out scare, or something similar to that.  I would then measure the responses in the brain to see if both types of screams went to the amygdala where fear is processed.  Are we even able to distinguish between them?

Another study I thought of, is whether gender plays a role in how much we scream.  I think it is generally known that girls let out a shriek more often than men, but why?  For this type of experiment, I would still get a large randomized sample.  My null hypothesis would be that gender has no affect on screaming.  I would then do the same type of action to all participants, and see who screams.  It seems simple enough, but I am very interested in what the results would entail.

Overall, the study done by Poeppel gave important information on where the screams go in the brain to be processed.  By the experiments I came up with, I would hope to understand more about what types of screams get processed in the amygdala, and whether or not gender plays a role in screaming.

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2 thoughts on “The Science of Screaming

  1. Delaney Ann Flynn

    This post was very unique because you proposed your own ideas for experiments.I thought both of your ideas were inventive and effective to disproving the null hypotheses. I always wonder what probed our bodies to scream in response to fear. I found a blog post that describes unexplainable reactions to fear that occur to the masses such as blushing, suddenly having to pee, or crying in addition to screaming.

    10 Weird Responses to Fear

  2. Alexandra Nicole Iaccino

    I thought this topic was really interesting and different from usual blog posts. I also think you have a really good idea of a possible study to perform to understand different types of screams. I looked up more information on why people scream and found this article ( that has similar points to the ones you made.

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