My enjoyment of Super Bowl 50 was somewhat lessened by the presence in the left channel of the audio feed of a man constantly shouting “woooooo” in a sort of deadpanned, consistent tone. At first, I thought I was simply hallucinating the worst noise in the world, but when I pointed it out to others, they became incapable of not hearing it as well. Few could believe that a human man was responsible for such a tone, instead choosing to believe that perhaps an old-timey steamboat was in harbor somewhere outside the stadium.
Thankfully I was not alone in grinding my teeth to dust due to his omnipresent awfulness.
This morning, the good folks at Sporting News got into the science of why Woo Guy drove me insane. They refer to a 2012 paper about the effects of unpleasant sounds on the human brain.
Here’s how Sporting News breaks it down:
Woo Guy, in short, was telling your brain to get upset. Not every sound gets that treatment, either; just the terrible ones. That could be because they resemble the distress calls of our evolutionary predecessors, or because the shape of the human ear amplifies certain frequencies to a pain-causing degree. Either way, it happens.
“It appears there is something very primitive kicking in,” Sukhbinder Kumar, the paper’s lead author, told Smithsonian. “Although there’s still much debate as to why our ears are most sensitive in this range, it does include sounds of screams which we find intrinsically unpleasant.”
Was Woo Guy doing this intentionally, or is he like your friend with the giant obnoxious laugh who is completely unaware they are ruining everything for everyone all of the time?
If you’re interested in the breakdown of the top ten worst sounds of all time, this is what that paper — titled “Features versus Feelings: Dissociable Representations of the Acoustic Features and Valence of Aversive Sounds” — found are the most unpleasant:
1.) Knife on a bottle
2.) Fork on a glass
3.) Chalk on a blackboard
4.) Ruler on a bottle
5.) Nails on a blackboard
6.) Female scream
7.) Disc grinder
8.) Squealing brakes on a bicycle
9.) Baby crying
10.) Electric drill
Pretty sure that Woo Guy throws all of these results out the window.