As you can probably guess, we here at ESHC think hearing is pretty dang cool! From being brought to tears by a beautiful orchestra piece to getting pumped up for a run with a beat filled tune, we are in awe of the physical response we receive from the sounds around us. Of course when we saw an article on NPR about the science behind scary music, our audiologist hearts soared.
When you think of the music from Jaws – “DUH-duh … DUH-duh … DUH-duh!” – you immedietly relate the simple notes with terror. NPR sought to find out just what gives us the hair raising response by asking UCLA evolutionary biologist Daniel Blumstein. In the latest issue of the journal Biology Letters he explains that it the answer lies in our animal instincts.
His research began following time spent in Colorado researching a community of yellow-bellied marmots. He noted that when baby marmots were caught they would let out a scream that created a nonlinear sound that grabbed the attention of their parents and created an emotional response in the researchers. So his team (film score composer Peter Kaye and communications professor Greg Bryant) set out to discover if there was a formula for fear that included nonlinear sounds.
The research study included two groups of original music, one of emotionally neutral scores and another that incorporated nonlinear elements. Subjects were asked to listen to the scores and rate them on emotional stimulation, and the results proved Blumstein’s prediction true. “The musical pieces containing nonlinear elements elicited the highest level of emotional stimulation, as well as the most negative feeling.” (NPR) It was also seen in another study that when paired with a visual stimulus, the emotions from the visual outweighed the auditory.
So the next time you’re watching a scary movie, pay attention to those nonlinear sounds…they are the culprit of your fear ridden emotions!