Screaming babies are so hard to ignore? Blame evolution!

It may compel you to lose your temper, but you can't simply ignore a screaming baby.

Wondered why? Well, it's because of evolution, says a new study.

This is because researchers claim that adults are biologically programmed to respond to a child in distress -- even when surrounded by other noises and distractions, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

In fact, the screams of a baby puts the bodies of adults at a heightened state of agitation and responsiveness, which could explain why noisy children are harder to ignore than the chatter of adults or natural sounds like birdsong.

Lead author Prof Morten Kringelbach, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, was quoted as telling the 'Oxford Student' newspaper: "Few sounds provoke a visceral reaction quite like the cry of a baby.

"For example, it is almost impossible to ignore crying babies on planes and the discomfort it arouses, despite all the other noises and distractions around."

For the study, the researchers recruited 40 adult volunteers who were made to listen to a variety of different sounds in order to test their reactions with the traditional arcade "whack-a-mole" game.

The findings revealed that players' scores -- determined by how quickly they could hit a series of nine buttons as they lit up at random -- were higher after listening to a recording of a baby's cry compared with other songs like a distressed adult or birdsong.

"The raised level of responsiveness could be due to an evolved alert system which kicks into gear and causes us to react when a baby needs attention, helping us care for our young," Prof Kringelbach said.

The study has been published in the 'Acta Paediatrica' journal.

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