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CARSON, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 28: Zlatan Ibrahimovic #9 of Los Angeles Galaxy yells at Nedum Onuoha #14 of Real Salt Lake after scoring a goal during the second half of a game at Dignity Health Sports Park on April 28, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

People scream for all sorts of reasons, while you may know why you’re letting it out, others may not be able to identify the reason purely by the sound of that scream. In fact, according to a new study, people have a hard time distinguishing between the sound of a scream due to happiness, and one out of fear.

The study asked 182 participants to listen and identify 30 screams from Hollywood movies, with each one conveying one of six emotions – anger, frustration, pain, surprise, fear and happiness. What they found that while in most cases participants could match a scream with the emotion, that wasn’t the case with happiness, with participants often confusing it with fearful screams.

“The acoustic features that seem to communicate fear are also present in excited, happy screams,” Professor Harold Gouzoules explains. “In fact, people pay good money to ride roller coasters, where their screams no doubt reflect a blend of those two emotions.”

The researchers suggest the reason they can’t be distinguished may have evolutionary roots. They explain that early animal screams were caused by predator attacks, noting that such sounds could startle a predator, allowing the prey to escape. The professor notes,  “So mistaking a happy scream for a fearful one could be an ancestral carryover bias. If it’s a close call, you’re going to err on the side of fear.”

Source: Study Finds