Chilling sounds

fingernails-scratching-a-007Over the next couple of months I’m going to be planning research into the reactions of men and women to a collection of chilling sounds. These are the type of sounds that make you shiver, think fingernails on a blackboard.

My first thoughts on how to collect this data were to construct a questionnaire on the sounds and to have people rank their reactions accordingly. This data could be useful, however, it is very subjective. It is open to many variables, such as someone ranking a sound as more or less chilling as they think that it should be – it is not their true reaction.

I went to see Professor Trevor Cox to discuss research and data collection methods as he himself conducts research into the psychoacoustics of sound. I had read his paper Scraping sounds and disgusting noises, where he used the internet to carry out listening tests in a large study group. He states ‘while a methodology which uses the Internet is fraught with difficulties, the opportunity to test large data sets across a wide range of subjects is highly appealing’ (Cox, 2008) the advantages to this are obvious – you can collect a large number of responses. As my research project is going to be on a much smaller scale, we discussed physiological measurements of reactions of a small number of participants and he explained to me how they were used. These are bodily responses; sweat measurements, heart rates. I am planning to use this method of data collection in my research project, as it will give me a truer picture of the human response to certain sounds. Combined with the questionnaire, this could also produce some interesting comparisons between perceived reactions written down by subjects and actual responses recorded by the physiological monitors.

The next thing I need to do is collate my chilling sound samples, which I will post here – let me know if you have any ideas.


Cox, T. (2008). Scraping sounds and disgusting noises. Applied Acoustics, 69(12), 1195-1204. doi: 10.1016/j.apacoust.2007.11.004


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