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Why Does Screaming Get Your Attention So Quickly?

Why are human screams so electrifying? Scientists think it may be something to do with their unique acoustic properties.Human screams have a unique property that not only activates the auditory regions of the brain but also the areas associated with fear.

image credit: hec.edu

If you ask a person on the street what’s special about screams, they’ll say that they’re loud or have a higher pitch,” says David Poeppel, professor of psychology and neural science at NYU.

image credit: sciencefocus

But there’s lots of stuff that’s loud and there’s lots of stuff that’s high pitched, so you’d want a scream to be genuinely useful in a communicative context.


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.

“In a series of experiments, we saw [that] this observation remained true when we compared screaming to singing and speaking, even across different languages.”