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Q: Goosebumps and their causes ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Goosebumps and their causes
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: thehomeland-ga
List Price: $4.01
Posted: 17 Oct 2003 11:58 PDT
Expires: 16 Nov 2003 10:58 PST
Question ID: 267285
I have the seemingly rare ability (to my knowledge) to develop
goosebumps almost at will, and I am curious as to how this is
possible.  Typically when there is a good song playing, I can focus my
mind and feel my hairs stand on end along my back, neck, scalp,
forearms, thighs and shins, but mainly on my arms, back, neck and

I have read that they are usually caused by fear (such as the reason
cats arch their back to seem larger) and have also seen reasoning that
it is merely a post-evolution heredity that no longer has a real
function (which is unacceptable).  I have also read that the goosebump
reaction most often occurs when the body surface temperature is cold
and needs warming (opposite of sweating) and that the activity of the
skin generates more blood flow.  However, I can still "activate" them
even when taking a steaming hot shower.  Having a full head of hair on
a hot day it is still easy to "activate" them on my scalp, although I
now keep my rather rather short merely for maintenances eases.

At certain times of the day, such as just getting off work, I seem to
be able to make them come about much more easily and without external
stimulus like music.  On more than one occasion while trying to
"activate" them (it is a pleasant experience, particularly to music),
I have felt as if brain fluid of some variety has been released in the
back of my head, approx 3 inches back from the top center, perhaps an
inch inward.  I have had a CT scan (for an unrelated reason) which all
show normal.

The first time I noticed this was in junior high band practice, when
one particular section of the music we were playing would just "seem
right" and the goosebumps would come up like wildfire.  By merely
repeating the few measures of the particular musical passage, I could
reactivate them easily. Other songs that have brought on the
goosebumps with ease have included almost anything by the modern
composer Hans Zimmer ("Crimson Tide", "Pirate of the Carribean: Curse
of the Black Pearl", amoung others) or John Williams ("Star Wars",
"Jurassic Park"), but just as easily with Track 8 of the Quake 2
(PC-CD) game soundtrack (lyricless hardrock/metal), drum cadences of
marching bands or corny stuff like Celin Dion's titanic song (which is
usually displeasing) -- most of the episodes of bringing them about
involve hearing something, but can still be done without audio.

The best way I can describe the "ability" is a choice situation. 
Imagine if one were on the verge of crying -- you have the choice of
whether to cry or to stifle it.  It would seem I get "divinely
inspired" (so to speak) and have a choice as to whether I want the
goosebumps to flourish or to diminish.

The Question:  Are there any documented cases of people having this
seemingly useless (but fun in a novelty way) ability?  I haven't been
able to find much info other than cat-arching and reactions to cold. 
Could they be linked with adrenaline somehow? Is it that I can
willfully release adrenaline on-demand?

Factors ruled out:
(a) I would not need my arm hair to stand up to scare away any
predators, nor
(b) is it (necessarily) caused by a reaction to cold as I have read. 
I do get them more easily when I am cold, but the fact that I can
still activate them when I am overheated marks that out as the only
Subject: Re: Goosebumps and their causes
Answered By: knowledge_seeker-ga on 18 Oct 2003 08:53 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Good morning thehomeland, 

What a great question! What you’re describing is quite interesting and
you’ve done a really good job of observing when you do or don’t get
goosebumps. That helps to narrow down just what we’re talking about

Here’s the story. First of all, you aren’t alone. Pretty much everyone
could learn to “conjure” goosebumps, but it takes a particular talent
to be able to do it as easily as you do. I’ll explain how and why.

As you mentioned, cold is one reason that we get them “automatically.”
I won’t go into all the anatomical details here, but in short –
Despite the fact that we have evolved less hairy bodies, we have not
lost the ability (or the reaction) to “fluff up” our coats to keep us

The other reason, again as you mentioned, is fear. This is the classic
fluffed kitten reaction to dogs. That’s also automatic, but rather
than being driven by a physical prompt (cold) it is driven by a
psychological prompt – FEAR.

Fear causes adrenaline to rush through our bodies. Adrenaline causes
our arrector pili muscles at the base of each hair to contract and
that’s what makes the hairs stand on end.

Now, what else causes adrenaline to flow through our bodies? Well, in
fact many stimuli do that – anything that “stresses” the body can
cause an emotional reaction strong enough to induce adrenaline flow. I
put stress in quotes because I want to point out that stress in this
case can be positive or negative. Something that causes severe anxiety
will induce an adrenaline rush as will something wonderful that causes
intense pleasure or an emotional “welling up.”

In your case, you are obviously sensitive to beautiful music. When you
hear it you have an emotional and a physical reaction to it, thus the
goosebumps. Other people might have this reaction to a beautiful
painting, being in the presence of a great person, or seeing their
newborn baby for the first time. Or, rather than goosebumps, they may
dissolve into tears or begin to shake. All of these are adrenaline

Finally, our bodies cannot tell the difference between real and
imagined. Actors know this, which is why they can “imagine” themselves
into an emotional state to induce actual real crying or fear
reactions. More easily than most people, actors can visualize
scenarios that trigger the correct bodily response for the scene that
they’re playing. But anyone can do it. I could sit here right now and
visualize myself having to speak in front of a large audience, and
immediately would find my stomach churning. This is an adrenaline
reaction just like goosebumps.

This then brings us back to you. You apparently have an excellent
ability to convince your body to have an emotional reaction with or
without the real stimulus. You have learned through biofeedback what
mindset you need in order to conjure up gooosebumps and can now do it
spontaneously. I’ve known several people who were quite good at it,
and like you, could quickly create goosebumps even in warm
environments. I even knew one person who could evoke goosebumps on one
arm and not the other. You could work on that next.

It sounds like you’ve already read up on the scientific causes of
goosebumps, so here are some more casual discussions I thought you
might enjoy.

Subject: Why my hair rises on one side of my body when I get a kiss in
the ear?

Subject: What causes goosebumps in response to say, beautiful music?

Forum Discussion: Does Music Give You Goosebumps?

Control your emotion by your imagination!

And a final thought  ---

“ Goosebump music is exceedingly rare. When you find it, treasure it.
Grapple it unto thy soul with hoops of steel.”

Michael Burton’s Pathetic Music Page.

Thanks so much for your question.


search terms:

goosebumps psychological causes –stine
goosebumps music  -stine
goosebumps emotion -stine
thehomeland-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Most of it I already knew, but simply acknowledging that there are a
number of others with this seemingly useless ability (except as a
party favor), was comfort enough :-)  The links that I had not yet
discovered also increased the rating.

Subject: Re: Goosebumps and their causes
From: sublime1-ga on 17 Oct 2003 17:14 PDT

While I haven't looked for documentation for this phenomena,
I thought I would confirm, at least, that you are not alone.
Having studied energetic healing and t'ai chi, I became very
sensitive to the flow of chi, or energy through the body, and
found myself able to produce goose bumps at will, as well.
This is always fun at parties.

Since I am also a musician, who plays by ear, I am additionally
very sensitive to the beauty of music. While fear can cause
goose bumps, I believe it is because it evokes the power of
the spirit within us. I believe that spirit also responds
to what I have come to call "harmonius expressions", so it
makes perfect sense to me that a particularly beautiful musical
passage or the colors of the sunset can evoke this energy of 
life in response. I also find it easily stimulated by tandem
ice dancing repertoires, since they combine some exceptional
music and the visual grace and power of the incredible harmony
displayed by a couple in the prime of physical condition.

Subject: Re: Goosebumps and their causes
From: thehomeland-ga on 18 Oct 2003 15:10 PDT
Thanks, sublime1, for adding a bit about Chi.  I am (coincidentally?)
a fan of the anime show Dragonball Z, which is about (abbreviating it
tremendously) a few people who can raise their chi levels so that a
glowing aura appears around them, and project a visible jedi-like
force for use in fighting.  A great many of these characters require
being in the "fighting mood" in order to achieve higher levels of
ability.  I often think of the glowing DBZ aura when the bumps come
about, most of the time inadvertently.

In regard to "beautiful music", I might have to question that -- a
better phrase might be "inciteful music"  With the exception of
Williams and Zimmer, the music varieties I enjoy that frequently
incites goosebumps is extremely disjointed and without melody,
seemingly "harsh" but most typically sans lyrics -- almost a barrage
of noise instead of music but occasionally a steady beat. "infected
mushroom" is one of these groups (goa or trance style music), along
with "Astral Projection" and "Deviant Electronics".  Recommended songs
for each, if you've never heard them:

infected mushroom - psycho
deviant electronics - catharsis
astral projection - aqua line spirit

On the other hand, the evolution explanations are totally out the
window.  Unacceptable.  I don't believe in genetic leftovers.  Either
it has a purpose that we haven't determined yet or it is a
misperceived function that is actually an indirect result of a
different function.  The reason we are comparable to animals in many
ways is not because all grew from the same organisms, but (a seemingly
more logical explanation) rather are made by the same designer.  The
same line of reasoning the "misperceiving church" used to describe a
misfortune in biology (blindness, heart disease, etc) as being demons
is now being used by the misperceiving scientists as due to evolution
because they are favoring one idea over another blindly, and not being
the biasless entity they perceive themselves to be.  There CAN be a
preference or a personally favored idea, but when scientists speak as
if their "preferred truth" IS the reality, their credibility plummets
because science has been known to change its mind vastly merely upon
the discovery of something new.
Subject: Re: Goosebumps and their causes
From: thehomeland-ga on 18 Oct 2003 15:15 PDT

Ask your friend if he/she can "manifest" them on only one side of
his/her scalp or back, in addition to either arm :-)

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