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Thread: Screaming at dead bodies

  1. #1 Screaming at dead bodies 
    Forum Freshman The Vegan Marxist's Avatar
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    Why do people scream when they see a dead body (preferably one that's not in a coffin)? Is there a scientific reason behind this? Some kind of impulse that is triggered during that specific moment, or is it a social norm that people have been conditioned to do? Either answer is interesting in itself, in my opinion. Though, the question is, which of the two is the correct answer?


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    Forum Junior JennLonhon's Avatar
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    Fear and shock?


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    These are overly emotional people would wouldn't make good Emergency Medical Technicians.
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  5. #4  
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    Hollywood.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Freshman The Vegan Marxist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Hollywood.
    I was born in the projects. Plenty of screaming at dead bodies. Not just hollywood. Hollywood just profited off of this fact.
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    The presence of a dead body may indicate danger nearby.
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    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    The presence of a dead body may indicate danger nearby.
    Indeed... Even if not some predator, the body itself could host illness and disease... and those predisposed to "fear" it would be more likely to avoid it and hence would tend to out survive those who touched (or even ate) it.

    The very first reply to this thread seems to remain the most accurate.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    The presence of a dead body may indicate danger nearby.
    Indeed... Even if not some predator, the body itself could host illness and disease... and those predisposed to "fear" it would be more likely to avoid it and hence would tend to out survive those who touched (or even ate) it.

    The very first reply to this thread seems to remain the most accurate.
    The same goes for those who don't scream. The likelihood of attracting a nearby predator (or the enemy) increases with the giving away of your position.
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  10. #9  
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    I think I associate "screaming" with a fear response. Even in a couple war zones I never saw that despite several opportunities in either soldiers or civilians. What I did see was loud cries of emotion -- usually of uncontrollable sorrow or anger. I pick on Hollywood because they often exaggerate human reactions and are just flat wrong. There are even several studies about crisis response that show how bad Hollywood misses the mark.
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  11. #10  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    The presence of a dead body may indicate danger nearby.
    Indeed... Even if not some predator, the body itself could host illness and disease... and those predisposed to "fear" it would be more likely to avoid it and hence would tend to out survive those who touched (or even ate) it.

    The very first reply to this thread seems to remain the most accurate.
    The same goes for those who don't scream. The likelihood of attracting a nearby predator (or the enemy) increases with the giving away of your position.
    Well... I suppose that's sort of true, but misses the much bigger (and more accurate) picture.

    Your argument is basically that "the predator will find your location when you scream and that's bad." That's true, but what you forget is that most humans (and other primates) don't tend to travel in isolation, but instead exist in troops and packs and social units. The scream is quite likely a mechanism to aid in the survival of your kin when the likelihood of risk and danger is determined to be higher due to some new data or circumstance (like a body).

    My point is that the scream could very well be for warning others in your tribe... others who will hear your alarm signal and react... others who share many of your genes... many of whom will later propagate... passing genes into future generations. It's quite likely that the survival of your larger family provides a higher return rate than your own survival. The survival of many brothers, sisters, cousins, etc. (even in the face of your own demise) allows a much higher percentage of your genes to be passed to future generations than would be propagated if your own reproduction was all that you considered (and not the survival of your larger troop and the genes they share with you).

    Many animals exhibit this group behavior of alarm calls. They are successful in large numbers, and that is very likely part of the scream response being inquired about in the OP. It's the hero paradox... The issue of altruism... Why would one sacrifice themselves to save others? Doesn't that extract them from the gene pool? The answer is, no. It's actually quite a successful strategy to prioritize the survival of your family/troop instead over your own.

    To Harold's point... seeing a body is akin to sensing danger nearby, and the scream could quite likely be used to alert the other family members in the vicinity of this potential danger such that they respond with heightened awareness, levels of alert, and ultimately take steps to maximize their safety, and the safety of their/your other relatives.



    I guess I just answered the OP in another way. In addition to fear/shock, the scream could be a mechanism to aid in the survival of those who share genes with you when some sort of danger becomes present.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Your argument is basically that "the predator will find your location when you scream and that's bad." That's true, but what you forget is that most humans (and other primates) don't tend to travel in isolation, but instead exist in troops and packs and social units. The scream is quite likely a mechanism to aid in the survival of your kin when the likelihood of risk and danger is determined to be higher due to some new data or circumstance (like a body).
    There is no need to endanger the entire troupe. Soldiers learn only too well that silence is more likely to keep you alive than uncontrolled screaming. Have to wonder how many soldiers paid the ultimate price for their vocalizations, just from their fellow mates in arms. So in this sense screaming at a dead body is a weakness. Would it not make more sense to not scream & properly analyze the situation by surveying the scene if only to ensure it is safe to make any sound at all. So if screaming is the norm then maybe it suggests Hollywood has conditioned us to do so, as Lynn_Fox intimated earlier. After all we know it's just an act and no one really gets hurt.

    I can't remember where it was but I either heard or read of a story where people banged on metal pots as they traveled through the jungle in order to scare away big cats but unfortunately they only succeeded in ringing the dinner bell.
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  13. #12  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    So, you're basically unmovable from your position that the yell ONLY allows predators to find you, and reject the position that it has a greater benefit than cost due to the impact on survival of your kin who are more likely to escape as a result of your vocalization?
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  14. #13  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    So, you're basically unmovable from your position that the yell ONLY allows predators to find you, and reject the position that it has a greater benefit than cost due to the impact on survival of your kin who are more likely to escape as a result of your vocalization?
    Yes. Your kin may survive if lucky but the screamer puts themselves in a very vulnerable situation. This is not good. Stay quiet and the odds improve so that everybody gets out alive. It makes no sense to risk death, especially your own. By natural selection the screamers will eventually die off and the silent ones, by the virtue of their innate reluctance to risky noisemaking, will not only improve their chances of survival but will pass it on to the next generation. The predator will eventually be forced to find another way to have you for dinner.
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  15. #14  
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    Okay. Whatever. I'll assume you just don't understand my point (which is valid).
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  16. #15  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Okay. Whatever. I'll assume you just don't understand my point (which is valid).
    I do, I'm just offering an alternative.

    A Meerkat's squeak alerts other Meerkats of imminent danger but this is usually due to a predator that is visual, an eagle passing by perhaps. Unseen dangers? I'm not so sure noise is a good option. Seeing a carcass does not necessarily mean the killer is nearby but how can one be sure? A simple flick of the tail, a nod of the head, a lowering of the ears, pawing the ground, whatever it takes to alert your kin is best done as silently as possible.

    Think of monkeys howling or birds screeching whenever danger is sensed. Where are they in relation to the potential danger?....In a tree usually, safe from harm. Warning others yes, but ensuring their survival is assured first. Any critter that sits on the jungle floor and announces their presence, puts themselves at risk.
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  17. #16  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos
    I'm not so sure noise is a good option. Seeing a carcass does not necessarily mean the killer is nearby but how can one be sure?

    <...>

    Any critter that sits on the jungle floor and announces their presence, puts themselves at risk.
    Again, you seem to be missing the larger point. You appear to assume that 100% of the time an alarm call is made, the organism making that call is sacrificed and dies. That's not even within the vicinity of truth.

    Majority of the time the one making the alarm call will also survive. They too will leave the premises with their pack. What happens then? Well... Perhaps they go back to the troop and are rewarded for their heroism. Perhaps they are treated as a savior for putting themselves at risk to reduce the risk of those around them. Perhaps they have risked their own life for in order to protect the lives of others in their pack. Perhaps their altruism brings with it a great return... perhaps in the form of protection, perhaps in the form of food, perhaps in the form of care for family members... Hmmm... what else might be a return for altruism and self-risk to protect the group?

    Let me see... what's an example of a reward which might be bestowed upon a male who risks his life to save the life of others? Hmmm... a reward? Geesh... I don't know. What kind of reward might be bestowed upon the individual sounding the alarm call at great personal risk? What type of reward might they receive for their heroic act of "screaming" which could increase his chances of passing genes on to future generations?

    Gosh... I'm simply stumped. You're right. There's simply no way raising the alarm could be selected for.


    Why do people scream at dead bodies? Because those that did in the past received an increase in reproductive success over those who were cowardly and quiet.
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  18. #17  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow

    Gosh... I'm simply stumped. You're right. There's simply no way raising the alarm could be selected for.


    Why do people scream at dead bodies? Because those that did in the past received an increase in reproductive success over those who were cowardly and quiet.
    I love sarcasm by the way. What do I say now? That you assume screamers are rewarded with sex 100% of the time?

    Here's another alternative....the screamer is a coward who only wants to attract the killer so that there's a chance the guy getting all the sex is eliminated....at least the attribute of reward is still there. Or maybe the scream is intended to scare away the killer.
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  19. #18 Re: Screaming at dead bodies 
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Vegan Marxist
    Why do people scream when they see a dead body (preferably one that's not in a coffin)? Is there a scientific reason behind this? Some kind of impulse that is triggered during that specific moment, or is it a social norm that people have been conditioned to do? Either answer is interesting in itself, in my opinion. Though, the question is, which of the two is the correct answer?
    I believe that the seeing a dead body (generally meaning that the death occurred recently) makes the psychological state of an individual recognize a "life or death" scenario, which results in an increase in impulse and state of alarm (which needless to say results in what you have labeled "screaming").
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  20. #19  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos
    I love sarcasm by the way.
    Cool. I'm glad you didn't take it personally.

    I think your ideas also have merit. We can probably agree that people scream for a multitude of reasons, that it is generally based on a shock or fear response, and that this shock/fear response could very likely have been selected for. Yeah?
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  21. #20  
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    Who screams at dead bodies? Surely the hypothesis would need to be established before making conjecture?
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  22. #21  
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    Is it cultural or is it genetic, or some blend of the two? A hefty cultural component gets my vote. In civilised society, where we are carefully shielded from the reality of death, whether it be human or food animal, sudden exposure to reality can be unsettling. Panic takes over and inow's argument kicks in.
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  23. #22  
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    Very good points, gentlemen. I'm sort of embarrassed that I missed it. Of course only a small subset of people scream. Those who see dead bodies daily, though, tend to be desensitized and it's like looking at a glass of water. It's something perfectly normal... It's no big deal for a whole lot of people.

    The "Hollywood" response is appearing more and more attractive each day.
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  24. #23 Expected. 
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    The screaming I suspect only occurs when the observer has been consolidated by surprise. If its a expected death the person would not be in shock or fear because of repressed thoughts of death of the significant one, meaning he unconsciously knew that the death was going to occur.
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  25. #24  
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    I assume it from prehistoric times, when it was good to alert others of potential enemies or predetors on the prowl.
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  26. #25  
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    I'm inclined toward the view that "screaming at dead bodies" is a media perpetrated myth, that in actuality it is a very rare phenomenon.
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  27. #26  
    Forum Professor arKane's Avatar
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    I have always thought screaming over dead bodies was more of a female thing in both the movies and reality. I don't know about the rest of you, but I won't be calling attention to myself unless I know it's safe to do so. Reacting without thinking is always a bad idea.
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