Goosebumps and their causes
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: thehomeland-ga
List Price: $4.01
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 head. 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 reason.
Re: Goosebumps and their causes
Answered By: knowledge_seeker-ga on 18 Oct 2003 08:53 PDT
Good morning thehomeland, What a great question! What youre describing is quite interesting and youve done a really good job of observing when you do or dont get goosebumps. That helps to narrow down just what were talking about here. Heres the story. First of all, you arent 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. Ill explain how and why. As you mentioned, cold is one reason that we get them automatically. I wont 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 warm. The other reason, again as you mentioned, is fear. This is the classic fluffed kitten reaction to dogs. Thats 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 thats 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 reactions. 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 theyre 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. Ive 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 youve 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? http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/nov99/941681059.Ns.r.html Subject: What causes goosebumps in response to say, beautiful music? http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/mar99/917559656.Ns.r.html Forum Discussion: Does Music Give You Goosebumps? http://pub157.ezboard.com/frevolutionaryideasfrm22.showMessage?topicID=4.topic Control your emotion by your imagination! http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Courtyard/7729/manga3.html 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 Burtons Pathetic Music Page. http://home.columbus.rr.com/mburton/music.html Thanks so much for your question. -K~ search terms: goosebumps psychological causes stine goosebumps music -stine goosebumps emotion -stine
rated this answer:
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.
Re: Goosebumps and their causes
From: sublime1-ga on 17 Oct 2003 17:14 PDT
thehomeland... 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. sublime1-ga
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 Rant: 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. /Rant
Re: Goosebumps and their causes
From: thehomeland-ga on 18 Oct 2003 15:15 PDT
knowledge_seeker-ga: 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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