Listening to Music

Why Some People Experience ‘Skin Orgasms’ When Listening to Music?

Have you ever experienced goosebumps tickle down your arms or shoulders or a shiver run up or down your spine when listening to music? According to retroworldnews, many people experience a thrilling phenomenon accompanied by a shiver when they are listening to particularly moving tracks.

That thrilling phenomenon is referred to as frisson. Frisson is a French word that means “aesthetic chills.”  The feeling is like a wave of pleasure that runs all over the skin. Music researchers have termed it as “skin orgasm.”

Emotional music is the main trigger of frisson. However, some people experience it when they look at a beautiful artwork or watch a scene in a movie that is particularly moving. Others may experience it when they are in physical contact with another attractive person.

Recent studies and music news indicate that approximately two-thirds of the world’s population experiences frisson. Frisson-loving people have gone ahead to create a Reddit page to share their frisson-causing tracks and other media.

There are reasons why only some people feel frisson and not everyone.

Here is an explanation of why only some people experience frisson according to Dr. El-Alayli. He is a social psychology professor at the University of East Washington.

What Causes the Thrill?

Recent research studies indicate that this thrilling feeling is caused by the emotional reaction of the human body to unexpected stimuli in the surrounding, particularly music.

He explains that frisson is caused by unexpected harmonies in musical passages, abrupt changes in volume or unexpected entrance of a soloist. These events interfere with the listener’s expectations, although in a good and positive way. Such an incident happened in 2009 during the debut performance of Susan Boyle on the famous talent show, Britain Got Talent.

When a violin soloist plays a moving passage with an increasing note, the listener gets emotionally charged when the note gets higher and more beautiful. The listener feels a thrill when he witnesses the successful execution of that piece which is regarded as difficult.

However, scientists are yet to unravel the mystery behind the goosebumps that are caused by the thrill. Some scientists attribute goosebumps to earlier human ancestors who were hairier. They argue that goosebumps occur after a sudden change in temperatures which lowers or raises the hairs temporarily.

However, the invention of clothing changed the dynamics of skin hair reactions. Therefore, those hairs now react to aesthetic chills which are caused by moving and emotional stimuli such as music or beautiful artwork.

How to Monitor Skin Response to Music

A hypothesis was developed to assess the frisson experience when a person is in a cognitive immersion in music based on the personality factor. Participants were taken to the lab and their GSR (galvanic skin response) index measured. They were then treated to different music tracks as their real-time responses were monitored by the lab assistants.

The data from psychological measures and personality tests were compared to make a conclusion and explain why some music listeners experience frisson while others do not.

Personality factors

The results indicated that participants who experienced frisson had a high personality trait score. This explains how these personality traits make people have active imaginations as they appreciate nature and beauty. Their imaginations are reflected in their feelings.

Final Thought

A personality trait is a major reason behind the frisson feeling which causes “skin orgasm” when one is listening to particularly moving and emotional music. However, studies are still ongoing and there may be other theoretical explanations of “skin orgasm.”

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