Goose bumps

Goose bumps 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, euphoria or sexual arousal.[1]

The formation of goose bumps in humans under stress is considered to be a vestigial reflex;[2] and its function in other apes is to raise the body's hair, and would have made our human ancestors appear larger to scare off predators or to increase the amount of air trapped in the fur to make it more insulating. The reflex of producing goose bumps is known as piloerection or the pilomotor reflex. It occurs in many mammals; a prominent example is porcupines, which raise their quills when threatened, or sea otters when they encounter sharks or other predators.

Goose bumps
SynonymsGoose pimples, goose flesh, cutis anserina, horripilation
2003-09-17 Goose bumps
Goose bumps on a human arm


Chaire de poule
Moderate goose bumps

The phrase "goose bumps" derives from the phenomenon's association with goose skin. Goose feathers grow from stores in the epidermis which resemble human hair follicles. When a goose's feathers are plucked, its skin has protrusions where the feathers were, and these bumps are what the human phenomenon resembles.

It is not clear why the particular fowl, goose, was chosen in English, as most other birds share this same anatomical feature. Some authors have applied "goosebumps" to the symptoms of sexually-transmitted diseases.[3] "Bitten by a Winchester goose" was a common euphemism for having contracted syphilis[4] in the 16th century.[5] "Winchester geese" was the nickname for the prostitutes of Southern London,[6] licensed by the Bishop of Winchester in the area around his London palace.

This etymology does not explain why many other languages use the same bird as in English. "Goose skin" is used in German (Gänsehaut), Swedish (gåshud), Danish and Norwegian (gåsehud), Icelandic (gæsahúð), Greek (χήνειο δέρμα), Italian (pelle d'oca), Russian (гусиная кожа), Ukrainian (гусяча шкіра), Polish (gęsia skórka), Czech (husí kůže), Slovak (husia koža), Latvian (zosāda) and Hungarian (libabőr).

In other languages, the "goose" may be replaced by other kinds of poultry. For instance, "hen" is used in Spanish (piel de gallina), Portuguese (pele de galinha), Romanian (piele de găină), French (chair de poule), Catalan (pell de gallina), Slovene (kurja polt) and in Central Italy (ciccia di gallina) and in Northern Italy (pelle d'oca).[7] "Chicken" is used in Dutch (kippenvel), Chinese (雞皮疙瘩, lit. "lumps on chicken skin"), Finnish (kananliha), Estonian (kananahk), Afrikaans (hoendervleis) and Korean (닭살, daksal). In Hindi/Urdu it is called rongtey khade ho jaana. The equivalent Japanese term, 鳥肌, torihada, translates literally as "bird skin". In Arabic it is called kash'arirah (قشعريرة), while in Hebrew it is called "duck skin" (עור ברווז). In Vietnamese, it is called da gà, which can be translated as "chicken skin", or gai ốc, which can be translated as "snail node".

All of the birds listed above are commonly consumed in the country of origin, so it may well be assumed that the term "goose pimples" (also "goose skin" and "goose flesh", c.1785 and 1810) and all other related terms in other languages came into being merely due to the visual similarity of the bird's plucked skin and the human skin phenomenon, used to describe the sensation in a way that is readily familiar.[8]

The same effect is manifested in the root word horror in English, which is derived from Latin horrere, which means "to bristle", and "be horrified", because of the accompanying hair reaction.

Anatomy and biology

Goosebumps in cat
Goosebumps in cat due to the fear of height

Goose bumps are created when tiny muscles at the base of each hair, known as arrector pili muscles, contract and pull the hair erect. The reflex is started by the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for many fight-or-flight responses. The muscle cells connected to the hair follicle have been visualized by actin immunofluorescence.[9]

As a response to cold

In animals covered with fur or hair, the erect hairs trap air to create a layer of insulation. Goose bumps can also be a response to anger or fear: the erect hairs make the animal appear larger, in order to intimidate enemies. This can be observed in the intimidation displays of chimpanzees,[10] some New World monkeys like the cotton-top tamarin,[11] in stressed mice[12] and rats, and in frightened cats.

In humans

In humans, goose bumps can even extend to piloerection as a reaction to hearing nails scratch on a chalkboard, listening to awe-inspiring music,[13] or feeling or remembering strong and positive emotions (e.g., after winning a sports event, or while watching a horror film).[14]

Some can deliberately evoke goose bumps in themselves without any external trigger. Such people tend to have the ability to increase their heart rate and describe the event as a chill from the base of their skull down the body, that causes the increase in heart rate and concurrent goosebumps on the skin especially the forearms which varies in duration. Further research is needed to discover more on such people.[15]

Goose bumps are accompanied by a specific physiological response pattern that is thought to indicate the emotional state of being moved.[16]

In humans, goose bumps are strongest on the forearms, but also occur on the legs, neck, and other areas of the skin that have hair. In some people, they even occur in the face or on the head.

Piloerection is also a classic symptom of some diseases, such as temporal lobe epilepsy, some brain tumors, and autonomic hyperreflexia. Goose bumps can also be caused by withdrawal from opiates such as heroin. A skin condition that mimics goose bumps in appearance is keratosis pilaris.


Extreme temperatures

Goose bumps can be experienced in the presence of flash-cold temperatures, for example being in a cold environment, and the skin being able to re-balance its surface temperature quickly. The stimulus of cold surroundings causes the tiny muscles attached to each hair follicle to contract. This contraction causes the hair strands to stand straight, the purpose of which is to aid in quicker drying via evaporation of water clinging to the hair which is moved upward and away from the skin.

Intense emotion

People often say they feel their "hair standing on end" when they are frightened or in awe. In an extremely stressful situation, the body can employ the "fight or flight" response. As the body prepares itself for either fighting or running, the sympathetic nervous system floods the blood with adrenaline (epinephrine), a hormone that speeds up heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature in the presence of extreme stress. Then the sympathetic nervous system also causes the piloerection reflex, which makes the muscles attached to the base of each hair follicle contract and force the hair up.


Canadian researchers have suggested that when humans are moved by music their brains behave as if reacting to delicious food, psychoactive drugs, or money.[17] The pleasure experience is driven by the chemical dopamine, which produces physical effects known as "chills" that cause changes in heart rate, breathing, temperature and the skin's electrical conductance. The responses correlate with the degree to which people rate the "pleasurability" of music.[18] Dopamine release is greatest when listeners had a strong emotional response to music. "If music-induced emotional states can lead to dopamine release, as our findings indicate, it may begin to explain why musical experiences are so valued,” wrote the scientists.[17]


Medications and herbal supplements that affect body temperature and blood flow may cause piloerection. For example, one of the common reported side effects of the intake of yohimbine is piloerection.[19][20]

Opiate withdrawal

Piloerection is one of the signs of opioid withdrawal.[21][22] The term "cold turkey" meaning abrupt withdrawal from a drug, may derive from the goose bumps that occur during abrupt withdrawal from opioids; this resembles the skin of a refrigerated plucked turkey.[23][24]

Voluntary control

An unknown proportion of people may consciously initiate the sensation and physiological signs of piloerection.[25] The phenomenon is discovered spontaneously, appearing to be innate, and is not known to be possible to learn or acquire. Those with the ability frequently are unaware that it is not possible to everyone. The ability appears to correlate with personality traits associated with openness to experience.

See also


  1. ^ "Science of Music: Why Does Music Give Me Goose Bumps? | Exploratorium". Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  2. ^ Darwin, Charles (1872). "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals". London: John Murray. pp. 101–103. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. ^ Roberts, Chris (2004), Heavy words lightly thrown: the reason behind the rhyme, Granta, p. 24, ISBN 978-1-86207-765-2
  4. ^ Buret, Frédéric (1895), Syphilis to-day and among the ancients v. 2-3, F.A. Davis, p. 48
  5. ^ Buret, Frédéric (1895), Syphilis to-day and among the ancients v. 1, F.A. Davis, p. 62 dates the aforementioned manuscript to the 16th century
  6. ^ Wabuda, Susan (2002), Preaching during the English Reformation, Cambridge studies in early modern British history, Cambridge University Press, p. 127, ISBN 978-0-521-45395-0
  7. ^ "Dizionario dei dialetti".
  8. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary - "Goose bumps"
  9. ^ Hanukoglu I, Boggula VR, Vaknine H, Sharma S, Kleyman T, Hanukoglu A (January 2017). "Expression of epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) and CFTR in the human epidermis and epidermal appendages". Histochemistry and Cell Biology. 147 (6): 733–748. doi:10.1007/s00418-016-1535-3. PMID 28130590.
  10. ^ Martin Muller and John Mitan. Conflict and Cooperation in Wild Chimpanzees. Advances in the Study of Behavior, vol. 35
  11. ^ French and Snowdon. Sexual dimorphism in responses to unfamiliar intruders in the tamarin, Saguinus oedipus. Animal Behaviour (1981) vol. 29 (3) pp. 822-829
  12. ^ Masuda; et al. (Jul 1999). "Developmental and pharmacological features of mouse emotional piloerection". Experimental Animals. 48 (3): 209–11. doi:10.1538/expanim.48.209. PMID 10480027.
  13. ^ David Huron. Biological Templates for Musical Experience: From Fear to Pleasure. Abstract
  14. ^ George A. Bubenik (September 1, 2003), "Why do humans get goosebumps when they are cold, or under other circumstances?", Scientific American
  15. ^ Benedek; et al. (2010). "Objective and continuous measurement of piloerection". Psychophysiology. 47 (5): 989–993. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.2010.01003.x. PMID 20233341.
  16. ^ Benedek, Kaernbach (2011). "Physiological correlates and emotional specificity of human piloerection". Biological Psychology. 86 (3): 320–329. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.12.012. PMC 3061318. PMID 21276827.
  17. ^ a b Salimpoor, Valorie N.; Benovoy, Mitchel; Larcher, Kevin; Dagher, Alain; Zatorre, Robert J (2011-01-09). "Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music". Nature Neuroscience. 14 (2): 257–62. doi:10.1038/nn.2726. PMID 21217764. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  18. ^ Craig, Daniel G. (2005-07-01). "An Exploratory Study of Physiological Changes during "Chills" Induced by Music". Musicae Scientiae. 9 (2): 273–287. doi:10.1177/102986490500900207.
  19. ^ Smet, Peter A. G. M.; et al. (1997). Adverse Effects of Herbal Drugs, Volume 3. Germany: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. ISBN 978-3-540-60181-4. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  20. ^ Goldberg, M R (1983). "Influence of yohimbine on blood pressure, autonomic reflexes, and plasma catecholamines in Humans". Hypertension. 5 (5): 776–777. doi:10.1161/01.HYP.5.5.772. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  21. ^ "Withdrawal Syndromes Clinical Presentation: History, Physical Examination". Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  22. ^ Parkar, S.R.; Seethalakshmi, R; Adarkar, S; Kharawala, S (1 January 2006). "Is this 'complicated' opioid withdrawal?". Indian J Psychiatry. 48 (2): 121–122. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.31604. PMC 2913562. PMID 20703400.
  23. ^ Hales, Robert E.; Yudofsky, Stuart C.; Roberts, Laura Weiss (2014). The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry, Sixth Edition. American Psychiatric Publishing. p. 779. ISBN 9781585624447.
  24. ^ Ghodse, Hamid (2010). Ghodse's Drugs and Addictive Behaviour: A Guide to Treatment. Cambridge University Press. p. 77. ISBN 9781139485678.
  25. ^ Heathers, James AJ; Fayn, Kirill; Silvia, Paul J; Tiliopoulos, Niko; Goodwin, Matthew S (2018). "The voluntary control of piloerection". PeerJ (Preprint). doi:10.7287/peerj.preprints.26594v1.

External links

Media related to Goose bumps at Wikimedia Commons

Arrector pili muscle

The arrector pili muscles are small muscles attached to hair follicles in mammals. Contraction of these muscles causes the hairs to stand on end, known colloquially as goose bumps.

Each arrector pili is composed of a bundle of smooth muscle fibres which attach to several follicles (a follicular unit), and is innervated by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. The contraction of the muscle is then involuntary–stresses such as cold, fear etc. may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, and thus cause contraction.

Contraction of the muscles has a number of different purposes. Its principal function in the majority of mammals is to provide insulation: air becomes trapped between the erect hairs, helping the animal retain heat. Erection of the porcupine's long, thick hairs causes the animal to become more intimidating, scaring predators. Pressure exerted by the muscle may cause sebum to be forced along the hair follicle towards the surface, protecting the hair.

Chicken skin

Chicken skin can refer to:

The skin of a chicken

Keratosis pilaris, a condition commonly known as 'chicken skin'

Goose bumps

Chicken Skin, an anthology of ghost stories by Glen Grant


Chills is a feeling of coldness occurring during a high fever, but sometimes is also a common symptom which occurs alone in specific people. It occurs during fever due to the release of cytokines and prostaglandins as part of the inflammatory response, which increases the set point for body temperature in the hypothalamus. The increased set point causes the body temperature to rise (pyrexia), but also makes the patient feel cold or chills until the new set point is reached. Shivering also occurs along with chills because the patient's body produces heat during muscle contraction in a physiological attempt to increase body temperature to the new set point. When it does not accompany a high fever, it is normally a light chill. Sometimes a chill of medium power and short duration may occur during a scare, especially in scares of fear, commonly interpreted like or confused by trembling.

Severe chills with violent shivering are called rigors.

Cold chill

A cold chill (also known as chills, the chills or simply thrills) is described by David Huron as, "a pleasant tingling feeling, associated with the flexing of hair follicles resulting in goose bumps (technically called piloerection), accompanied by a cold sensation, and sometimes producing a shudder or shiver." Dimpled skin is often visible due to cold chills especially on the back of the neck or upper spine. Unlike shivering, however, it is not caused by temperature, menopause, or anxiety but rather is an emotionally triggered response when one is deeply affected by things such as music, speech, or recollection. It is similar to autonomous sensory meridian response; both sensations consist of a pleasant tingling feeling that affects the skin on the back of the neck and spine.

Cold turkey

"Cold turkey" refers to the abrupt cessation of a substance dependence and the resulting unpleasant experience, as opposed to gradually easing the process through reduction over time or by using replacement medication. The term comes from the piloerection or "goose bumps" that occurs with abrupt withdrawal from opioids, which resembles the skin of a plucked refrigerated turkey.Sudden withdrawal from drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates can be extremely dangerous, leading to potentially fatal seizures. For long-term alcoholics, going cold turkey can cause life-threatening delirium tremens, rendering this an inappropriate method for breaking an alcohol addiction.In the case of opioid withdrawal, going "cold turkey" is extremely unpleasant but less dangerous. Life-threatening issues are unlikely unless one has a pre-existing medical condition.Smoking cessation methods advanced by J. Wayne McFarland and Elman J. Folkenburg (an M.D. and a pastor who wrote their Five Day Plan ca. 1959), Joel Spitzer and John R. Polito (smoking cessation educators) and Allen Carr (who founded Easyway during the early 1980s) are cold turkey plans.

Four-dimensional product

A four-dimensional product (4D product) considers a physical product as a life-like entity capable of changing form and physical properties autonomously over time. It is an evolving field of product design practice and research linked to similar concepts at the material scale (programmable matter and four-dimensional printing), however, typically utilizes sensors and actuators in order to respond to environmental and human conditions, modifying the shape, color, character and other physical properties of the product. In this way 4D products share similarities with responsive architecture, at the more human scale associated with products.


Frisson (French for 'shiver'), also known as aesthetic chills, musical chills, and colloquially as a skin orgasm, is a psychophysiological response to rewarding auditory and/or visual stimuli that induces a pleasurable or otherwise positively-valenced affective state and transient paresthesia (skin tingling or chills), sometimes along with piloerection (goose bumps) and mydriasis (pupil dilation). The sensation commonly occurs as a mildly to moderately pleasurable emotional response to music with skin tingling; piloerection and pupil dilation do not necessarily occur in all cases. The psychological component (i.e., the pleasurable feeling) and physiological components (i.e., parasthesia, piloerection, and pupil dilation) of the response are mediated by the reward system and sympathetic nervous system, respectively. The stimuli that produce this response are unique to each individual.

Frisson is of short duration, lasting only a few seconds. Typical stimuli include loud passages of music and passages—such as appoggiaturas and sudden modulation—that violate some level of musical expectation. During a frisson, a sensation of chills or tingling felt on the skin of the lower back, shoulders, neck, and/or arms. The sensation of chills is sometimes experienced as a series of 'waves' moving up the back in rapid succession and commonly described as "shivers up the spine". Hair follicles may also undergo piloerection.It has been shown that some experiencing musical frisson report reduced excitement when under administration of naloxone (an opioid receptor antagonist), suggesting musical frisson gives rise to endogenous opioid peptides similar to other pleasurable experiences. Frisson may be enhanced by the amplitude of the music and the temperature of the environment. Cool listening rooms and cinemas may enhance the experience.

Human vestigiality

In the context of human evolution, human vestigiality involves those traits (such as organs or behaviors) occurring in humans that have lost all or most of their original function through evolution. Although structures called vestigial often appear functionless, a vestigial structure may retain lesser functions or develop minor new ones. In some cases, structures once identified as vestigial simply had an unrecognized function.

The examples of human vestigiality are numerous, including the anatomical (such as the human tailbone, wisdom teeth, and inside corner of the eye), the behavioral (goose bumps and palmar grasp reflex), and molecular (pseudogenes). Many human characteristics are also vestigial in other primates and related animals.

I'm Ready (Bryan Adams song)

"I'm Ready" is a song by the Canadian rock musician Bryan Adams. It was written by Adams and collaborator Jim Vallance. The song was first released in 1979, by Ian Lloyd (formerly of The Stories), on his solo album Goose Bumps. Vallance played the drums on this recording. In 1983 Adams himself recorded the song for his third album, Cuts Like a Knife, as a straightforward rock song with electric guitar and synthesizer. Adams co-produced his version with Bob Clearmountain, who also mixed it.

The song became a hit for Adams in 1998, after its inclusion on his 1997 album Unplugged. Patrick Leonard was producing these sessions, and selected I'm Ready to be included in the show. For this concert, the song was re-arranged as an acoustic ballad with string orchestrations added by Michael Kamen, who had previously worked on some of Adams' biggest hits, and played by students of the Juilliard School. It also features a low whistle played by Davy Spillane. In 1998 the song was released as the second single from Unplugged, after "Back to You". This version is also included on the two best-of-compilations The Best of Me and Anthology.

Lazarus sign

The Lazarus sign or Lazarus reflex is a reflex movement in brain-dead or brainstem failure patients, which causes them to briefly raise their arms and drop them crossed on their chests (in a position similar to some Egyptian mummies). The phenomenon is named after the Biblical figure Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus raised from the dead in the Gospel of John.

Nina Jablonski

Nina G. Jablonski (born 1953) is an American anthropologist and palaeobiologist, known for her research into the evolution of skin color in humans. She is engaged in public education about human evolution, human diversity, and racism. She is an Evan Pugh University Professor at The Pennsylvania State University, and the author of the books Skin: A Natural History, and Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color.

Nipple stimulation

Nipple stimulation or breast stimulation is a common human sexual practice, either by itself or as part of other sexual activities. The practice may be performed upon, or by, people of any gender or sexual orientation. Adult women and men report that breast stimulation may be used to both initiate and enhance sexual arousal.

Now I Run

"Now I Run" is a song by Australian singer Shannon Noll. Released in 2006, it was the third single from Noll's second album, Lift.

The song is written in honour of Noll's father, who was killed in a tragic farming accident. Their close relationship is clearly evident, with the lyrics of the chorus including the words: "Everything that I am, comes from a better man." It was praised by music critics, with influential Australian music reviewer Cameron Adams naming "Now I Run" as one of his top singles of 2006, describing it as "So soaked in raw emotion you can imagine the goose bumps on his arms as he's singing".

The single peaked at number six on the Australian Singles Chart. Noll performed the song during a special episode of the Nine Network's The Footy Show in Beaconsfield, Tasmania, to celebrate the rescue of trapped miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb.

The B-side, "What Does It Do to Your Heart", was later included on Noll's UK debut album, What Matters the Most.

OC Osilliation

Siame O'Brien (born 25 August 1984), better known by his stage names OC Osilliation or OC, is a recording artist and producer from Lusaka, Zambia. He is also the CEO of recording studio Obama Records and Entertainment; which has produced four studio albums. OC has also released several top selling singles, including "Folo Folo", " Wangu ni Wangu", "Wacha Wachema", "Rafiki", and "Last Forever" which continue to be fan favorites and most requested.His song "Wacha Wachema" from his first album titled My Name is OC won an award for Best Reggae music at the Born and Bread Awards.

Sympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is one of the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system, the other being the parasympathetic nervous system. (The enteric nervous system (ENS) is now usually referred to as separate from the autonomic nervous system since it has its own independent reflex activity.)The autonomic nervous system functions to regulate the body's unconscious actions. The sympathetic nervous system's primary process is to stimulate the body's fight-or-flight response. It is, however, constantly active at a basic level to maintain homeostasis homeodynamics. The sympathetic nervous system is described as being antagonistic to the parasympathetic nervous system which stimulates the body to "feed and breed" and to (then) "rest-and-digest".

Vestigial response

A vestigial response or vestigial reflex in a species is a response that has lost its original function. In humans, vestigial responses include ear perking, goose bumps and the hypnic jerk.


Vestigiality is the retention during the process of evolution of genetically determined structures or attributes that have lost some or all of their ancestral function in a given species. Assessment of the vestigiality must generally rely on comparison with homologous features in related species. The emergence of vestigiality occurs by normal evolutionary processes, typically by loss of function of a feature that is no longer subject to positive selection pressures when it loses its value in a changing environment. The feature may be selected against more urgently when its function becomes definitively harmful, but if the lack of the feature provides no advantage, and its presence provides no disadvantage, the feature may not be phased out by natural selection and persist across species.

Examples of vestigial structures are the loss of functional wings in island-dwelling birds; the human appendix and vomeronasal organ; and the hindlimbs of the snake and whale.

Skin physiology
SF and LCT

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