Shouting is often used as a red flag in primates. Social conflict, the presence of predators, environmental threats … Certain species use different screams to indicate different dangers. One shout can warn of an aerial threat and another shout warns of rivals. From this basis, people continue to develop our communication system. At some point we acquire the ability to understand and share fictions. But we still keep a delay from another time. So it is good to know how shouting helps us communicate.
Hidden in the scream
Is there information in our screams that we do not hear? That is the subject of a new study. It is titled New Cognitive Processing Efficiency to distinguish between non-alarm and non-alarm alarm screams. It will be published in the magazine this week PLOS biology.
We scream when we are afraid, we feel threatened or we have to warn of danger. But it also happens with other emotions. For example, despair, joy or euphoria. This is mentioned by the team led by Sascha Frühholz. He works at the University of Zurich.
What do we express when we scream? And most importantly, what is perceived by others when we are doing it? Frühholz is an expert in cognitive and affective neurosciences. He designed 4 experiments. He asked 12 participants to utter different screams that could be provoked by different situations. Another group of people then assessed the emotional nature of the screams. And he classified them into different categories. All of this during an MRI test.
Psychoacoustics is the discipline related to this experiment. Investigate the relationship between the properties of a sound stimulus and the psychological response it evokes. The results showed six types of psychoacoustically different screams. These indicated pain, anger, fear, pleasure, sadness, and joy. Which stimulus did the audience react to the fastest and most precisely? To the positive calls and not to those that denoted an alarm situation. The less alarming screams triggered more activity in many auditory and frontal brain regions. Frühholz notes that the study results are surprising.
“Up to now, we assumed that warning of threats was the main purpose of communicative signaling in calls. This is not the case with humans. This is an important evolutionary step, ”he continues.
People share with other species the potential to signal danger when they scream. But screaming to signal positive emotions such as joy and pleasure? It’s unique to our species. “We prioritize these positive emotions in the form of shouting over the red flags. Understanding how shouting helps us communicate speaks of our evolutionary ability, “he concludes.