Why do we get goosebumps?


            Ever think about an emotional memory that sent chills down your spine and gave you goosebumps? Or have you gotten them on a cold day? Whatever the scenario, I'm sure everyone in this class has experienced goosebumps. 

            By definition, goosebumps are "the bumps on a person's skin at the base of body hairs which may involuntarily develop when a person is cold or experiences strong emotions such as fear, nostalgia, pleasure, awe, admiration or sexual arousal."  Humans inherited goosebumps from our animal ancestors (although they are not useful for us-however they are for animals).  Goosebumps (also known as "turkey bumps") helped in insulating animals with their fur whenever their bodies were cold.   The bumps are caused by a "contraction of miniature muscles that are attached to each hair, each contracting muscle creates a shallow depression on the skin surface, which causes the surrounding area to protrude." Therefore, the contraction caused the hair to stand up whenever the animal was cold.  This is obviously not beneficial to humans since we do not have a coat of hair on our bodies. 

            Animals also have this contraction of muscles causing the hair to protrude when they are threatened- a comparison for humans is when one experiences an emotional memory, creating goosebumps.       The reason goosebumps are contracted during these emotions is because of adrenaline (stress hormone).  Adrenaline, in humans, is produced in two small beanlike glands that sit atop the kidneys, not only causes the contraction of skin muscles but also influences many other body reactions.   Other common adrenaline signs are shaking hands, increase in blood pressure, racing heart, etc.   

            According to Doctor Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Museum, "All mammals share this hair raising trait. But humans don't have enough body hair for the response to make a difference; it's a vestigial reflex left over from when we had furry coats. "  He went on to say that the hair that stood on end on our ancestor's bodies made them appear more "menacing" and that "predators would move on to look for less imposing prey."

What significant scenario always causes you to get goosebumps? Is it a daily occurrence for you?



It seems strange to me that the same reaction, getting goosebumps, occurs when a person is cold and when they have an adrenaline rush. I figured that the increased heart rate and pumping of blood during an adrenaline rush would warm up the body, creating the incorrect environment for goosebumps to arise. It is interesting that goosebumps occur in both situations.

Wow, that's so interesting! I suppose that explains why when cants and dogs are excited or angry, the fur on the ridge of their backs stands up.
Apparently, according to this helpful health website for kids (probably more helpful than the ones for adults, coughWebMdcough)
( http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/shiver.html )
we shiver when we're cold to warm the body up, and we shiver when we're afraid or excited because "your brain and nerves send out messages through your body that cause your muscles to get excited." Presumably this too is in the line of the "fight or flight" reaction. Goosebumps for the fight, shivers for the flight.

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