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Thread: Why do we scream when in pain?

  1. #1 Why do we scream when in pain? 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Im just wondering:

    1) Why do we scream when in pain? I would think it is related to survival in that you would get help from member of your species?
    2) Do animal and humans differ in this?
    3) Does it serve any purpose other that alerting people? Does it in any way leviate pain?
    4) Is it automatic or "chosen" response? Can you simply choose not to scream nomatter how much pain you are in?


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    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    My guess would be alerting other members of the group to warn them or come help you, or like biting the bullet, perhaps the out going nerve transmissions in yelling reduce the intensity of the incoming pain sensations.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DianeG View Post
    My guess would be alerting other members of the group to warn them or come help you, or like biting the bullet, perhaps the out going nerve transmissions in yelling reduce the intensity of the incoming pain sensations.
    The first is what I thought aswell, the second is something that I was really wondering about. Is it even possible to measure it scientifically if screaming reduces the level of pain?
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    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell View Post
    The first is what I thought aswell, the second is something that I was really wondering about. Is it even possible to measure it scientifically if screaming reduces the level of pain?

    I think so, but you must have strong arguments to convince the Scientific Ethics Board to conduct such an experiment.

    I recall that a small, similar experiment was set up in MythBusters. In the episode "No Pain, No Gain", it was tested if cursing did not increase pain tolerance.
    However, they had to reject the H0 and confirmed the opposite: cursing increased pain tolerance. I do not know if they speculated about how cursing could reduce that, but it is not foolish to assert that the same mechanism is responsible for the decrease in pain levels when the subject screams.
    Last edited by Cogito Ergo Sum; September 20th, 2014 at 04:53 PM.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Bachelors Degree One beer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DianeG View Post
    My guess would be alerting other members of the group to warn them or come help you, or like biting the bullet, perhaps the out going nerve transmissions in yelling reduce the intensity of the incoming pain sensations.
    This sounds most likely to me. Primitive man would have helped their and other's survival by alerting other members of the tribe to help them and/or perhaps to stay clear of the danger.

    Shouting or screaming might help distract oneself from the pain to get clear of the danger and until the
    ?endorphines kick in perhaps?

    OB
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    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    I read the Wikipedia article and did a search in the medical databases, but I could not find a definitive reason why people often scream when in pain.
    In the absence of a scientific answer, I concur with the response given by member DianeG.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell
    2) Do animal and humans differ in this?

    Animals do not 'scream', but they can be very vocal (peeping, yelping, etc.) about the intensity of the pain they experience.
    Nonetheless, body language is another sign that is used to communicate about the pain. An example would be the grimace scale in mice.


    4) Is it automatic or "chosen" response? Can you simply choose not to scream nomatter how much pain you are in?

    I speculate that it is not a conscious decision to yell, but a conscious decision not to yell.
    The former is based on the possibility (as member One beer already noted) that screaming caused by pain is instinctual since it was an evolutionary advantage.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Forum Bachelors Degree One beer's Avatar
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    I've just realised why this probably is: When we are babies and cannot talk, we cry to attract attention to get help, whether we are hungry, too hot, too cold, or in pain etc.

    I guess this trait stays with us so that when we experience sudden pain, we involuntarily cry out, but then our conscious takes over and curtails the cry.

    OB
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell View Post
    Im just wondering:

    1) Why do we scream when in pain? I would think it is related to survival in that you would get help from member of your species?
    2) Do animal and humans differ in this?
    3) Does it serve any purpose other that alerting people? Does it in any way alleviate pain?
    4) Is it automatic or "chosen" response? Can you simply choose not to scream no matter how much pain you are in?
    What amazes me is that no matter how hurt a sheep is it never cries out in pain, but a goat is different.
    It will be instinctive depending on the species response. Sheep don't help each other out, if one goes down the others will just run over top of it. The only time I have seen care and attention is when there is a newborn lamb. They will do their best not to knock a lamb over.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell View Post

    Is it even possible to measure it scientifically if screaming reduces the level of pain?
    Not sure about the screaming but there was some experiment done on tv where people (celebrities) had to hold their arm in icy water for as long as they could while swearing and not swearing. It showed that while swearing they could withstand the pain of the icy water considerably longer.
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  11. #10  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A_Seagull View Post
    Not sure about the screaming but there was some experiment done on tv where people (celebrities) had to hold their arm in icy water for as long as they could while swearing and not swearing. It showed that while swearing they could withstand the pain of the icy water considerably longer.

    You are probably referring to an episode of Mythbusters, to which I linked in post #4.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Extreme pain probably hijacks/commandeers the mind (ie, distracting them from duties) until the person does something, which would include screaming.

    Along similar lines, if a person swears, I figure they're not hurt much because I think someone in extreme pain would scream/moan/etc (or not vocalize at all) instead of swearing. That is, if they have the wherewithal to swear/speak, they're probably not in that much pain.
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