Why do Teenage Girls Scream at Pop Concerts?

A screaming woman at a concert

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Hello and welcome to another edition of Professional Moron. This time out, girls screaming at Beatles concerts (and various other gigs) in the name of… something.

What’s that all about then?! Well, it’s bothered us over the years.

The result? We decided to go all investigative journalism and find the answer (by searching around online). Thank goodness for the internet!

On the Nature of Screaming Teenage Girls at Gigs

You watch any clips of The Beatles in the ’60s, or other big bands like The Doors (note our Light My Fire review), and alongside the music you’ll hear high-pitched shrieking.

It’s to the point you wonder how the band is able to comprehend what’s going on and focus on their songs. The Beatles members said they generally couldn’t hear much and instead relied on drummer Ringo Starr to remind them where they were in a song.

But listen to this! You can even see a copper at the 18 second mark covering his ears.

It sounds like tens of thousands of wailing banshees. But this wasn’t restricted to the Sixties as a new wave of rock music emerged. Fans at Justin Bieber concerts these days will do exactly the same hysterical shrieking. Same goes for One Direction etc.

Of this screaming, there are a few things to note. It’s:

  1. Constant and borderline hysterical.
  2. Pretty disturbing.
  3. Deafening (ear-splitting, even).

In their film A Hard Day’s Night (1964), The Beatles played on the screaming phenomenon. Scenes show them constantly having to run away from teenage girls in a state of delirium at the sight of the Fab Four.

For us, this is rather confusing (probably because we never were teenage girls).

We never were big concert goers in our formative years, but the ones we did attend didn’t result in us shrieking like a maniac at the act in question. To get our heads around why someone would, we referred to Dr. Harold Gouzoules PhD’s feature Why Do Female Fans Scream for the Beatles and Other Megastars? Dr. Gouzoules notes:

“One of the distinctive and common contexts for human screams is pleasurable excitement, as any parent of a young child can attest to. Children at swimming pools, playgrounds, school bus stops, and just about anywhere they gather and freely engage with one another, will scream. There has not been much scientific research on why children scream like this, and so whether this tendency is truly species-typical and serves communicative, perhaps even adaptive, functions is not well established.

He postulates the screaming is an effort to gain attention (and then is likely contagious for all others at the concert).

And it’s applicable in any situation, not just at gigs. Dr. Gouzoules notes it was common for women to scream like this during Adolf Hitler’s 1930s orations:

“Screaming like this, however, is not restricted to popular music icons, as a much darker example illustrates. Werner Pusch (1913-1988) was a German politician in the Social Democratic Party who, as a young man, observed a number of Nazi rallies prior to the start of the Second World War. He was interviewed (at 26 min 53 sec) and provided accounts of the events for the still remarkable 1973 documentary series, The World at War (Thames Television). From 1933-1937, the fall Reich Harvest Thanksgiving Festival (Das Reichserntedankfest), ostensibly a celebration of the work of German farmers, was staged on the Bückeberg, a hill near the town of Hamelin, of Pied Piper fame. In reality, these huge gatherings (in 1937, some 1.2 million people attended) were propaganda tools the Nazis used to spotlight and declare a connection between Adolf Hitler and German farmers. Pusch was struck by the reaction of many of the young women in attendance when Hitler arrived at the festival. He described how “The whole atmosphere grew more and more hysterical. He was interrupted after nearly every phrase by big applause and, uh, women began screaming … it was like (a) mass religious ceremony …”.

Addressing the en masse screaming at these concerts, Dr. Gouzoules notes:

“A completely speculative hypothesis derives from some of my research on screams and the literature on the evolution of these vocalizations. First and foremost, screams attract attention. This is true across the various species that scream. That attention might be from an ally, such as a close relative, when a monkey or ape screams in a fight or, in other species, the scream might draw attention and attract others when the caller is a rabbit or other prey in the jaws of a predator whose efforts might be interrupted by another’s approach. Perhaps it is the ability of screams to draw attention to the vocalizer that prompts their usage in, what might be, in the case of concert screaming by female fans, a competitive effort to get noticed by their idols. This need not be (and is likely not) conscious or even voluntary, as my student at the Justin Bieber concert experienced.”

Other suggestions are fans aren’t just competing, but acknowledging their allegiance—the love for a band (or psychotic, maniacal dictator).

In that sense, it’s a group bonding phenomenon.

One that may seem bizarre for outsiders, but you only need to look at sports fans (like football enthusiasts bellowing in unison) and what these girls do is nothing out of the ordinary.

It’s just teenage girls have the shrill capacity to split your eardrums in two and leave you pining for a living in a hut out in the forest somewhere. What we do see in this behaviour is the complexity of human communication, even in its more base forms, and sometimes it may seem beyond our comprehension.

But what do you think? Were you a teenage girl shrieking hysterically at a gig decades ago? If so… let us know what you were thinking!

Dispense with some gibberish!

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