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Halpern, D. Lynn., Blake, R., & Hillenbrand, J. (1986). Psychoacoustics of a chilling sound. Percept Psychophys, 39(2), 77–80. 
Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard (10/23/06, 10:18 AM)   Last edited by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard (9/6/22, 12:23 PM)
Resource type: Journal Article
ID no. (ISBN etc.): 0031-5117
BibTeX citation key: Halpern1986a
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Categories: Demographics
Keywords: Horror
Creators: Blake, Halpern, Hillenbrand
Collection: Percept Psychophys
Views: 1/646
"We digitally synthesized versions of the sound of a sharp object scraping across a slate surface (which mimics the sound of fingernails scraping across a blackboard) to determine whether spec¬tral content or amplitude contour contributed to its obnoxious quality. Using magnitude estima¬tion, listeners rated each synthesized sound's unpleasantness. Contrary to intuition, removal of low, but not of high, frequencies lessened the sound's unpleasantness. Manipulations of the sig¬nal amplitude had no significant impact on listeners' unpleasantness estimates. Evidently, low-frequency spectral factors contribute primarily to the discomfort associated with this sound."
Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard  
ig Nobel acoustics prize winner in 2006.

Looking at the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard (or close version) and a range of other sounds from 'pleasant' to 'unpleasant', the authors conclude that it is low-to-middle frequencies that contribute to the unpleasantness rather than the assumed high frequencies. No answer as to why this should be the case although the authors speculate that the blackboard sound, being similar to the spectogram of a macaque monkey, may trigger a vestigial warning response.

Neither loudness nor changing amplitude contour contribute to the perceived unpleasantness of the sound.
Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard  Last edited by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard
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