Shouts of joy are perceived and processed by the brain more efficiently than shouts of alarm

Shouts of joy are perceived and processed by the brain more efficiently than shouts of alarm

According to a new study carried out by a team from the Department of Psychology at the University of Zurich, led by Sascha Frühholz, there is a human guttural sound that catches our attention more than a cry of alarm: a cry not of alarm .

The results of the study revealed six emotionally different types of screams that indicate pain, anger, fear, pleasure, sadness and joy . Listeners thus responded more quickly and accurately, and with greater neural sensitivity, to positive and non-alarming screams than to alarming screams.

Screaming and functional magnetic resonance imaging

The research team carried out four experiments for their 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 and classified them into different categories .

As the participants listened to the screams, their brain activity underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor how they perceived, recognized, processed and categorized the sounds. As Frühholz explains:

The frontal, auditory and limbic brain regions showed much more activity and neural connectivity when hearing the non-alarm screams than when processing the alarm cries.

Previously, it was assumed that human and primate cognitive systems were specially designed to recognize signs of threat and danger in the form of screams. However, unlike primates and other animal species, human screams seem to have become more diversified throughout human evolution , something that Frühholz considers a great evolutionary leap.

It is quite possible that only humans scream to indicate positive emotions such as great joy or pleasure. And unlike alarm calls, positive yelling has become increasingly important over time.