why do we get goosebumps when we are scared
For the same reason cats fluff up when they're threatened. "The general principle is, if you are going to be attacked, try to look as big as you can," says David Huron, a musicologist at Ohio State University. People don't have as much hair as cats, but goose bumps are a holdover from when we were furrier. Hair-raising itself began as a response to cold. When hair stands on end, it traps an insulating layer of air around the body. But at some point millions of years ago, one of our chilly, puffed-up ancestors scared away a would-be attacker, and hair-raising was slowly established as a useful defense mechanism. The heritage of this physiological response explains why fear is associated with cold. Puffing up was a matter of temperature first and fear secondБbut you can still get shivers down your spine when you're scared, Huron says. The upending of our expectations can give us chills, too, Huron says.
And shivers can crop up when we feel any sort of surprise or intense emotion, even in music: a change in volume or the moment a singer begins singing. People usually get the chills at tonally "sad" passages, says Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University. He also hypothesizes that certain tones in music mimic a "human separation cry," and that shivers result from the perception of losing a loved one. The same moment in the same song can give someone chills over and over againБthe response resists habituation, Huron says. "The brain can tolerate thousands of false alarms in order to protect us from the one occasion when the alarm is real," he says. Which is why when we know we are safeБat a scary movie, for exampleБthose false alarms can be a source of pleasure. "One part of your brain is saying, 'Oh my god, I'm gonna die! ' " Huron says. "But the conscious part is saying that everything is OK. Which makes shivers feel good. "
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Send an email to Watch a scary movie and your skin crawls. Goose bumps have become so associated with fear that the word is synonymous with thrills and chills. But what on earth does scary have do to with chicken-skin bumps? For a long time, it wasn't well understood. Physiologically, it's fairly simple. Adrenaline stimulates tiny muscles to pull on the roots of our hairs, making them stand out from our skin. That distorts the skin, causing bumps to form. Call it horripilation, and you'll be right в bristling from cold or fear. Charles Darwin once investigated goose bumps by scaring zoo animals with a stuffed snake.
He argued for the now accepted theory that goose bumps are a vestige of humanity's ancient past. Our ancestors were hairy. Goose bumps would have fluffed up their hair. When they were scared, that would have made them look bigger в and more intimidating to attackers. When they were cold, that would have trapped an insulating layer of air to keep them warm. We modern humans still get goose bumps when we're scared or cold, even though we've lost the advantage of looking scarier or staying warmer ourselves. And researchers have found that listening to classical music (or Phil Collins), seeing pictures of children or drinking a sour drink can also inspire goose bumps. There's clearly a link with emotion and reward, too. Dive deeper into the science of goose bumps in Skunk Bear's latest hair-raising. Check out more, and the. Follow on twitter.
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