Human screams can convey at least six different emotions

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Humans have at least six different emotions, including pain, anger, fear, pleasure, sadness, and joy that can be conveyed in our screams, a new study reveals.

Scientists from the University of Zurich got 12 volunteers to yell in a positive and negative way, trying to convey sounds relevant to different scenarios.

In some non-human species, scream-like calls are negative to warn of danger, but in humans they can be used to indicate elation, fear, despair, or even aggression.

The results of the Swiss study revealed six psychoacoustically different types of screaming calls, which indicated pain, anger, fear, pleasure, sadness and joy.

The team also found that remarkable, non-alarming screams are perceived and processed by the brain more efficiently than alarm screams.

Humans have at least six different emotions, including pain, anger, fear, pleasure, sadness, and joy conveyed in our screams, a new study reveals.  Stock image

Humans have at least six different emotions, including pain, anger, fear, pleasure, sadness, and joy conveyed in our screams, a new study reveals. Stock image

SIX DISTINCTIVE TYPES OF HUMAN CRY

Researchers found that there are six psychoacoustic different types of scream calls. Including:

  • Pain
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Pleasure
  • Sadness
  • Joy

People who listened to different cries responded more quickly and accurately, and with higher neural sensitivity, to non-alarming and positive shout calls than to alarming cries.

Less alarming screams produced more activity in many auditory and frontal brain regions.

According to the authors, these findings show that screaming calls in humans are more diverse in signaling and communicative nature than is often believed.

Outbursts of vocal affect, such as howling, growling, laughing, and screaming, are an important part of social communication in many mammal species.

Screaming is a particularly significant burst, which comes as short, loud, and intense high-pitched calls.

In non-human primates and other mammal species, scream-like calls are often used as an alarm signal, only in negative contexts, social conflicts, or the presence of predators or other environmental threats.

Humans are also believed to use yelling to signal danger and to scare predators, the team behind this new study explained.

But people not only scream when they are fearful and aggressive, but also when they experience other emotions, such as despair and elation.

Previous studies focused primarily on alarming fear cries, but the new study addressed the knowledge gap using four different psychoacoustic, perceptual decision-making, and neuroimaging experiments in humans.

A total of 12 volunteers were involved in the experiments, each asked to voice both positive and negative cries.

Another group assessed the emotional nature of the screams, classified the screams into different categories, and underwent an MRI scan while listening to it.

The results revealed that there were six psychoacoustic different types of screams.

Listeners responded more quickly and accurately, and with higher neural sensitivity, to non-alarming and positive scream calls than to alarming screams.

Less alarming screams triggered more activity in many auditory and frontal brain regions, the study authors explained.

They say alarm screams require more processing effort from a human listening to someone else, compared to other types of screaming.

The researchers say their findings show that screams are more diverse in their signaling and communicative nature in humans than is often believed.

Scientists from the University of Zurich got 12 volunteers to yell in a positive and negative way, trying to convey sounds relevant to different scenarios.  Stock image

Scientists from the University of Zurich got 12 volunteers to yell in a positive and negative way, trying to convey sounds relevant to different scenarios.  Stock image

Scientists from the University of Zurich got 12 volunteers to yell in a positive and negative way, trying to convey sounds relevant to different scenarios. Stock image

WHAT IS A SCREAM?

A scream is a loud, piercing cry used in most mammals to sound the alarm and show emotions in humans.

The loud vocalization means that air passes through vocal maps with more force than other sounds.

Any creature with lungs can scream.

In humans, it is an instinctive or knee-jerk action that displays a strong emotion.

In non-human primates and some mammals, it is purely a warning mechanism to warn others in society of impending danger.

The positive screams are likely to be more relevant to human society and social environments, the team said, adding that they are more likely to be encountered.

Study leader Professor Sascha Fruhholz said the results are surprising because researchers usually assume that the cognitive systems of primates and humans are specifically tuned to cues of danger and threat as a survival mechanism.

“This has long been believed to be the primary purpose of communicative signaling in screaming,” Fruhholz said.

“While this may seem true for scream communication in primates and other animal species, scream communication seemed to be largely diversified in humans, and this is an important evolutionary step.”

Humans share with other species the potential to signal danger when they scream, but it seems that only humans scream to signal positive emotions as well, they found.

Fruhholz added, “Signaling and perceiving these positive emotions in screaming seemed to have taken priority over alarm signaling in humans.

“This change of priority is probably due to the requirements of evolved and complex social contexts in humans.”

The findings are published in the journal PLOS Biology

Most people can’t tell the difference between screaming for joy and fear because they both have similar acoustic characteristics, study finds

Hearing a scream can be scary, especially if you don’t know why it was made.

Psychologists at Emory University asked subjects to listen to Hollywood movie clips and determine the emotion behind 30 different cinematic catchphrases.

They found that people are actually quite good at discerning the causes of different types of screams – such as anger, pain, or surprise – but bad at determining whether someone is a scream of joy or fear.

This may be because the acoustic elements used to convey fear are also present in ‘excited happy cries’.

“People even pay good money to ride roller coasters, where their screams undoubtedly reflect a mix of those two emotions,” the researchers said.