Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why Scream?

Last week I watched a movie where two boys in their early teens found a dead body smashed inside a car on a wrecking lot. They both screamed. Why? I thought teenage boys would have tried to be all manly and shrugged the shock off, or maybe even think it was weird. But, the author of the program chose for them to scream.

I asked one of my knowledgeable friends who happens to have a degree in psychology why people, especially women, scream when something startles them. She said that she was a screamer, and her hubby always ran to her side to protect her from whatever it was that brought forth the scream. She told me it was an automatic reflex.

I started thinking about how I would have reacted if, like her, I’d touched a spider web in the dark. I don’t think I would have screamed. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed when something startled me. I started asking people how they reacted and found that more people screamed than not. They said it was just a natural response.

I looked up the definition: Reasons for shouting vary, and it may be done deliberately or simply as a reaction. The core motive, in essentially all situations, is communication. These outbursts convey alarm, surprise, displeasure or outrage, or perhaps to gain the attention of another person or an animal. When frightened, human beings tend to yelp, or cry out. This is both to convey fear and to call attention to themselves, increasing the possibility of receiving assistance from others. This action also serves as a possible defense tactic, as shouting may frighten off an assailant or cause them to falter, allowing a chance to escape.

One of the reasons I wanted to research this topic is for writing. Since we are supposed to be showing instead of telling, it would be a good way of showing someone is startled or frightened. I guess I must be boring because I know I gasp, but doubt anyone would hear me unless they were standing next to me. How do you react when you are caught off guard, startled or frightened?

16 comments:

Rolynn Anderson said...

Good points, Paisley. We can't have all our characters react the same way, can we? When we're startled or fearful, some of our base traits seem to come to bear. Some of us run like hell...others stand and fight. I hate being startled, because my response is out of my control.

Vonnie Davis said...

I hate being frightened from behind. My sons used to love to tap me on the shoulder while I was running the sweeper, knowing I couldn't hear them sneak up on me. How they lived to be grown men, I haven't a clue.

I don't know that I scream. I do slap my hand to my chest and yell, "Oh, my God!" or "Land-a-mercy." As for walking into spider webs..."Ewww!"

Interesting post.

Mona Risk said...

I am a screamer. But for the life of me, I don't know why, being a grown-up woman, sliding down on the other side of the hill, why do I still scream, Mommy! and then I correct myself and shout, Saaaaam.
The strongest screams I ever heard where those of my daughter when she'd see a spider, the big black type. Her brother would laugh and say, leave him in peace. He's my pet.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Paisley, Thought provoking post. After thinking about it, I realized, I yelp when something I touch startles me or am touched by someone unexpectedly. But I flinch when something is coming at me or I see something creepy crawly. Interesting.

Ana Morgan said...

Great post, Paisley. I am farily quiet when startled. More of an "Oh," as I freeze. I don't think I've ever screamed.
The women I work with shriek at mice or when they are startled. It seems so .... wimpy. I guess I try to be stoic.

Jill James said...

I'm a screamer. I should have been the blonde in a horror movie. It takes nothing; a scary movie, a spider, a kid jumping out at me, to get a scream worthy of Friday the 13th.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Rolynn, I think one of the reasons I don't scream is that I feel like I am out of control. The one time I think I would have screamed and didn't was stepping into the garage barefooted in the dark and crunching a potato bug. I think I suck the scream in because it was so repulsive. Hate potato bugs! :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

And your sons lived, Vonnie. You're lucky you didn't have a heart attack with them tapping you on the shoulder while vacuumming. I think they might not have had their favorite meal those nights. But, then again, I do have a man streak at times. ;)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

So glad you do end up for calling for your hero, Sam, Mona. He does seem to always be there for you. And, please, no more rolling down hills.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

It does take a moment to give thought to how we react, doesn't it Dawn? I asked my hubby if I have ever screeched and he couldn't think of any either.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I'm with you, Ana. I guess it would be calling attention to myself and I usually shy away from that.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

It must be exciting be around you when you're startled, Jill. You'd never survive here in the mountains. We name all of our spiders because we just cannot convince them they should move out. :)

morgan said...

Hi Paisley,
I don't consider myself a screamer, but will jump when startled.
Because I am a country girl, spiders, snakes, and other creepy-crawly things don't frighten me. I do scream on the roller coaster just for fun.:)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I'd say you're very brave to even get on a rollercoaster, Morgan. I wouldn't get on one without screaming. Living in the mountains, we've adjusted to all things critter.

Josie said...

Paisley,
I shriek rather than scream. I live in the south, and some of the bugs I saw this summer made me shriek, then spray with Raid. And yes, I left them sitting in that same pool of Raid until my dh came home to scoop up and throw out.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Isn't it grand that you have a hero to come to your rescue, Josie. I've seen some of those bugs in the south, but the worse one for me is the dreaded potato bug. EUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU. They crunch when you step on them. ICKKKKKKKK