How Does Sensitivity Comes From Is Still Up For Debate? Essay
Your driving tunes might sound like a never-ending cat fight [pic: PD] to me, and my wind-down playlist might make you feel like you’re stuck on hold with customer service.
But no matter how different our musical tastes, I bet there are at least /some/ sounds we can agree on.
Namely, the worst, most skin-crawling, ear-covering, cringe-inducing ones ... like oh, fingernails on a chalkboard. [pic:Aldeasycampamentos ]
Gah. Just saying it gives me the willies.
And it turns out that there’s a good scientific reason why certain sounds set most people’s teeth on edge: human ears are extra sensitive to a particular range of pitches. [pic: PD]
… although where that sensitivity comes from is still up for debate.
In 1986 a group of scientists tried to get to the bottom of this visceral sound reaction by doing what so many researchers do: unpleasant things to volunteers.
Specifically, they asked 24 adults to rank a series of 16 sounds based on their perceived unpleasantness. And although that isn’t a very big sample size, the results clearly showed that the nastiest noises -- like the sound of a fork scraping a plate and squealing brakes -- share a so-called middle-frequency range between 2,000 and 5,000 hertz, where our ears happen to be especially sensitive.
The researchers wondered if there might be an evolutionary explanation for this, and began comparing those sounds waves to the calls of seriously distressed…