Gooooosebumps


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I was watching a recent viral video online of a man reciting a slam poem about having OCD. It's an extremely touching and powerful video. (In case you're interested here's the link). Anyway, while watching this I felt my body tingle inside with every powerful word he spoke. As I shivered a bit I felt goosebumps develop on my arms and eventually all over my body. I knew this was a reaction to the deep emotion the video portrayed and that I was feeling while listening. But why? Why was my body reacting like this?

Well I learned after doing some research that goosebumps occur for many different reasons and it has all been passed down from our animal ancestors through evolution. At this point goosebumps are fairly useless to humans. But when looking at it from an evolutionary stand point, it makes a lot of sense. Like I said, goosebumps occur for different reasons like during emotional situations, being cold, or any fight or flight situation. The physiology of this reaction is that the muscle attached to each hair on our body called the arrector pili muscle contract and cause the hairs to stand up straight. "Each contracting muscle creates a shallow depression on the skin surface, which causes the surrounding area to protrude." It's the stress hormone adrenaline that causes this reaction in the first place. For humans, adrenaline is "released when we feel cold or afraid, but also if we are under stress and feel strong emotions," (Scientific American) such as anger, sympathy, excitement, love, nostalgia, etc. 

I think the fact that this reaction is no longer useful to humans is interesting because it really shows evolution first hand. We've all experienced getting goosebumps. They were originally developed to cause the hair on animals bodies to stand up to act as a warmth insulator in colder situations. Also, as we even see if cats today, this is used when animals are scared. When the hair stands up the animal looks larger, and in turn more intimidating (ASAP Science). Clearly humans do not use these natural defenses. Maybe someday millions of years down the road humans will not experience goosebumps!

Sources:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-do-humans-get-goosebu
http://laughingsquid.com/the-science-of-goosebumps-and-music-chills-by-asapscience/

2 Comments

I've also always wondered why I get goosebumps when I am emotionally moved by a situation. Getting goosebumps when we are cold makes sense because it's our body's way of trying to keep itself warm. However, getting them when we feel intense emotions is very interesting. Something that intrigues me even more is that there is a muscle that is attached to every single hair on your body that makes it stand up on end. A debate I constantly have with my friends is whether goosebumps make the hair on your legs grow back faster or not. After doing a little research on my own, this site along with this one both state that hairs don't actually grow in the cold. Like you said, the cold makes the hair stand on end, but whenever you return to normal temperature, the hair contracts back into your skin.

Rebecca, I love that feeling. It's like a tingling in the back of my head and top of my neck, and the hairs stand up. I get this feeling when I listen to an amazing song or someone whispering in my ear or blowing on my skin. I've never really thought about the tingling, but it was always there. I just did a little research and I think its called autonomous sensory meridian response. Here is a wiki about it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_sensory_meridian_response . Very interesting topic.

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