Here's the Reason Good Music Gives You Chills


Have you ever felt a shiver run up your spine while listening to a certain song? Or gotten goosebumps during a really emotional movie scene? If so, congratulations — you're part of only two thirds of the population who experiences frisson, or "aesthetic chills." 

The French-named phenomenon, which at least one researcher has referred to as a "skin orgasm," occurs while experiencing something particularly affecting, be it music, film or even human contact.

With music, when a song elicits certain emotions within the listener, those capable of experiencing frisson are hit with a feeling akin to chills. The same such chills can occur while watching a film or engaging in certain activities.

Though researchers aren't sure why a third of the population isn't capable of feeling frisson, they suspect that it's linked to the way the body responds to emotional stimuli, particularly when it's unexpected.

According to Slate, such examples include pieces of music that feature "unexpected harmonies, sudden changes in volume or the moving entrance of a soloist," particularly because they subvert listeners' expectations.

For example: In 2015, pop singer Adele sneakily went undercover as herself (with the aid of some prosthetics) at an Adele impersonator contest — and blew the other contestants away with her singing voice when she took the stage.

The reactions of those listening in person are priceless, and the "chills" that one woman describes are likely frisson — the unexpected emotional payoff that comes from hearing something beautiful unexpectedly.

On the r/Frisson subreddit, Reddit users have identified triggering media that might cause one's skin to prickle — with recent examples including a Bassnecter remix of "Genesis" by Grimes and a poem that appeared in an episode of Rugrats.

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