Why Scary Sounds Are So…Err..Scary

Posted on October 28, 2014. Filed under: hearing education | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Whether you’re an avid thrill seeker, horror movie fanatic, or just a stone cold scaredy cat, you’ve been exposed to some level of being fear. When the human body is afraid, a number of different resulting conditions usually occur, like a faster heart rate, warmer temperatures and a rush of adrenaline. Essentially, your body is placed into fight-or-flight mode as an instinctive defense mechanism. But what is it about scary content that triggers this fascinating response in the human body? Turns out, scary sounds play a major part in the frightening functions!

Halloween is usually the epicenter of creepy fun, which is usually associated with home decorations and haunted houses, both of which usually employs the use of scary sounds to activate the stress response in people. As soon as a sound enters the ear, it is converted into an electrical signal, which then travels through the auditory nerve, directly to the brain. How it is interpreted can have a number of different effects on our emotions. This isn’t exactly news to movie producers, who have been using this tactic to their advantage for years!

These movies include blood-curdling soundtracks or theme songs. Jaws is an exemplary example of this with it’s iconic and chilling jingle. Studies have suggested that to illicit the chilling effect in viewers, producers include sounds that are nonlinear and trigger the same response that animals undergo when their kin screams. Yep, that’s right, screaming baby animals influenced the infamous Jaws sound! As a result an instant biological response takes place in the human body that makes us feel like our children are being threatened and are in inherent danger, which is enough to make anyone feel positively on edge. Some films even go as far as using actual animal screams in the scary sounds themselves, like The Shining! The sounds are distorted to become unique to each film, but ultimately, it has the same effect on the listener.

Moreover, sounds can have a number of different effects on the body and trigger different reactions and emotions based on the sound that is being transferred to the brain. For example, think about waiting room music, what purpose does it even really serve? Well, studies show that music can help warp the aspect of time and make listeners feel like their wait is actually less than what it really is! The music works to distract the brain so that the person will not be as able to notice details that are surrounding them, most notably, the time slowly ticking by! Ultimately, the effects of sound on the brain are resoundingly endless and can essentially be used either in your favor (think workouts) or against you (think scary movies!), but one thing is for certain, our brain loves the stimulation from sounds, scary or not!

scary sounds


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