Why high-pitch tunes scare us

Comment on this story
iol scitech june 13 Psycho shower scene . Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 hit Psycho. Researchers say th theme tune from the classic thriller affects us all in the same way.

London - The screech of violins helped make the Psycho shower scene one of the scariest of all time. Now scientists think they know why.

They say that distorted and jarring music reminds us of the calls made by animals in distress and “brings out the animal in us” by putting us on high alert for threats such as predators.

The study played a series of music clips by two composers to volunteers. Some of the tunes were likened to “elevator music” and were designed to have little effect on the emotions.

Others had distorted sounds similar to when instruments strain at the top of their range. These were described as being more exciting, the journal Biology Letters reports.

Greg Bryant, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “Composers have intuitive knowledge of what sounds scary. What they don’t realise is they’re exploiting our predispositions to... bring out the animal in us.” - Daily Mail

Hungry for more scitech news? Sign up for our daily newsletter

sign up

Comment Guidelines

  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

  5. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. You are only required to verify your email address once to have full access to commenting on articles. For more information please read our comment guidelines