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Top 5 Sounds to Make You Squirm

Just in time for Halloween – the top 5 sounds that make us squirm, cringe and cover our ears!

Nails on a chalkboard is consistently voted as one of the most cringe-worthy sounds we can hear. And the reason may be part physiology and part psychology. “I’m convinced that watching somebody scrape their nails on a chalkboard will make the experience even more unpleasant” said scientist Randolph Blake at Vanderbilt University.

In a nightmarish study, participants listened to the sound of nails and squeaky chalk being dragged across a chalkboard to identify the frequencies that cause us to cringe. Their vital signs and skin conductivity were monitored for signs of stress during two of the worst clips. I can actually hear this sound in my head – it makes one cringe just thinking of it!

Removing the highest and lowest frequencies didn’t make much difference. Rather it’s the tones in the middle range of the squeak – those found on a piano keyboard – that we’re prone to be most sensitive. These frequencies may be the sounds we hear most, and explain why people with loud jobs lose hearing in this range. Seeing the motion associated with the bad sound can also elicit the same response: we’re already cringing in anticipation.

That being said, nails on a chalkboard isn’t the worst sound. According the Newcastle University, in order the worst sounds are:

  1. A knife scraping across a bottle
     
  2. Fork on a glass
     
  3. Chalk on a chalkboard
     
  4. Ruler on a bottle
     
  5. Nails on a chalkboard

Care to judge for yourself? A warning: these sounds are sure to make you squirm.

http://soundcloud.com/wellcometrust/knife-bottle

http://soundcloud.com/wellcometrust/fork-glass

http://soundcloud.com/wellcometrust/blackboard-chalk

http://soundcloud.com/wellcometrust/ruler-bottle

http://soundcloud.com/wellcometrust/blackboard-nails

Is there a noise that makes you cringe more? Let us know in the comments section below!

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