According to a new study published in the journal PLOS Biology , human screams can convey much more than fear, and they are more acoustically diverse than previously thought .
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
In the study, twelve participants were asked to vocalize positive and negative screams that could be triggered by various situations. A different group of individuals rated the emotional nature of the screams, classified the screams into different categories, and underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while listening to the screams.
The results revealed six types of psychoacoustically distinct screams, indicating pain, anger, fear, pleasure, sadness, and joy.
Perhaps the most surprising thing was that listeners responded more quickly and accurately, and with greater neural sensitivity, to positive and non-alarmed screams than to alarming screams . Specifically, the less alarming screams elicited more activity in many auditory and frontal brain regions.
According to the authors, these findings show that screaming is more diverse in its communicative and signaling nature in humans than is often assumed.