Why is it cold on our backs when chalk squeaks?

Whether chalking squeaks on a board, scratching fingernails over polystyrene, or slipping a fork over the plate, there are sounds that make most people wince and feel an icy chill on the back of their necks. The noise is perceived as unbearable, the hair on the back stand up and goose bumps on the arms. But why are we really scared of such harmless noises? And where does the chill come from?

Goose bumps in response to noise

This reaction is a primeval relic that is innate to most mammals. A loud, shrill sound used to mean danger in the past. And in order to protect themselves from this, the body hair automatically set up to make the body seem larger and more threatening and so to beat the attacker to flight.

This reaction is controlled by the limbic system, which is responsible for the processing of emotions in the brain. It is directly connected to the nerves, which in turn are responsible for setting up the hair. Although man no longer has a coat today, unpleasant noises still create the remaining fine body hair, thus creating goose bumps. This actually leads to the feeling that a cold shower would run down the back.

Reaction to creaking chalk different

In the animal world, this protective mechanism may be vital - but in the meantime it has become superfluous in humans. Nevertheless, one can do nothing against this reaction.

It is noteworthy, however, that not all people are sensitive to the same sounds. While some wince at the sound of chalk, others make the sound of filing fingernails shudder.

Sequence of individual experiences

Scientists suspect that this is related to the experiences that a person has accumulated in the course of his life. So the squeaking of the chalk may be linked to a nasty teacher at school, the scratching of the fork on the plate with the parents' prescription to eat the food.

These unpleasant experiences are stored in the limbic system and henceforth linked to the sounds. Therefore, even small children rarely show such reactions to certain sounds, because they have not usually stored so much experience in the limbic system.

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