Hi, I'm a 16 year old student in Canada and I'd like to know why it irritates us when nails go down a chalkboard, or squeaky sounds in general.
Chris - The only, and the best, explanation I've heard of this is that the frequency distribution that’s emitted by the nails going down the chalkboard is very reminiscent, at very high frequencies, of distress sounds produced by other animals. This plugs in to the primeval response in all of us of an animal in distress. For this reason, we experience this sound with an “Ouch! I don't like it! I have to wake up and take notice!” reaction.
Saeema S asked the Naked Scientists: Hi, I'm a 16 year old student in Canada and I'd like to know why it irritates us when nails go down a chalkboard, or squeaky sounds in general. Thanks, Saeema What do you think? Saeema S , Sun, 29th Nov 2009
First thing to point out is that it doesn't bother everyone to the same degree i.e. it doesn't bother me too much, so I'll go along with RD's scepticism re the screaming monkey hypothesis, although I will admit to finding it mildly irritating, if only because it is unaesthetic.