Screaming Vending Machine

I scream, you scream. Scream a little louder and you might even get a better brew from a vending machine.

Farnham Ale & Lager came up with an excellently bizarre way to showcase its beers with a beer vending machine operated by screaming at it. Just put your face up to the machine and shout. The louder you shout, the more bitter beer you get.

The vending machine has a scream sensor on top, measuring how loud the scream is. It will then automatically correlate the loudness to the bitterness of the beer. The whole concept of this marketing ploy is to highlight that every single person has an unequal tolerance for bitter beer. Hence, people should drink the beers that they’re more inclined to like.

Put on some headphones before you watch:

Research on Screaming from the Times

Normally, your brain takes a sound you hear and delivers it to a section of your brain dedicated to making sense of these sounds: What is the gender of the speaker? Their age? Their tone?

Screams, however, don’t seem to follow that route. Instead, the team from New York University discovered that screams are sent from the ear to the amygdala, the brain’s fear processing warehouse.

“In brain imaging parts of the experiment, screams activate the fear circuitry of the brain,” David Poeppel, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University says. “The amygdala is a nucleus in the brain especially sensitive to information about fear.” That means screams are inherently considered not just sound but a trigger for heightened awareness.

From these screams, Poeppel and his team mapped “roughness,” an acoustic description for how fast a sound changes in loudness. While normal speech modulates between 4 and 5 Hz in sound variation, screams spike between 30 and 150 Hz. The higher the sound variation, the more terrifying the scream is perceived.

Poeppel and his team had volunteers listen to different alarm sounds and found people responded to alarms with similar variations: The more the alarms varied at higher rates, the more terrifying they were judged to be.

That huge variation in scream roughness is a clue to how our brains process danger sounds, Poeppel says. Screaming serves not only to convey danger but also to induce fear in the listener and heighten awareness for both screamer and listener to respond to their environment.

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