Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Optical recording of goosebumps
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C. Kaernbach
Goosebump Team

[Start] [Why goosebumps] [Interest in goosebumps] [Recording Device] [Analysis Software] [Spectral Analysis] || [Team]

Why do we get goosebumps?

Goosebumps are firstly a reaction to cold. The autonomic nervous system stimulates the muscles in the hair follicles, and they contract in order to erect the hairs. Furry animals can thus make their fur more fluffy, which improves the conservation of body heat. Also with respect to the human skin, goosebumps increase the friction of the air, helping to conserve a slightly warmer microclimate above the skin. 

Goosebumps are at the same time an indicator of emotional arousal. In scary situations, the erected fur of a furry animal makes it look bigger and helps to impress an adversary (see picture of kitten). We all know of hair-raising experiences, and even if it is only while watching horror films. 

Curiously enough, we also get goosebumps in response to pleasant stimuli. When listening to emotionally moving music or viewing romantic movie scenes, comforting chills go up our spine. The music industry advertises "goosebump music". Why pleasant stimuli can make our hair stand up, and why, in turn, we perceive this as pleasant experience, is a subject of ongoing research.
Scared kitten. Picture: R. Kaufhold -