Why does the sound of nails on a chalk board get such a physical reaction?

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Genevieve asked the Naked Scientists:

I was wondering why humans respond in similar ways to the sound of nails scraping down a chalk board (or a fork screeching on a china plate).

After interviewing some friends, they reported physically recoiling from the sound, getting shivers, goose bumps on the skin, shuddering, fanning out their fingers, curling their toes, and even screaming or groaning.

Why do we react this way to a seemingly harmless sound? And why do we also react when thinking about the sound?

Genevieve in Los Angeles California (by way of Melbourne Australia)

What do you think?


Offline RD

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I have heard that it is a resonance effect stimulating sensory nerves.
It occurs when the frequency of the sound vibrations is the same as the inherent frequency of impulses in the nerves.