Sure, we have all experienced chills while listening to music at one point or another, right? Well, apparently there is a word for this and it is a lot more interesting than you think.
This special kind of chill is an experience known as frisson. Frisson is a French term and basically means aesthetic chills; this being something that happens when we listen to music that emotionally moves us in one way or another. Some people even feel this when looking at something that evokes the same kind of emotion.
Monitoring how skin itself responses to music is something that has been studied for quite some time now. One study from the early 2000s tested the hypothesis as to whether or not someone would become emotionally interested in a piece of music and whether or not that would reflect their personality type went quite well. For this study participants were brought into a lab setting and wired up to a machine that measured their galvanic skin response.
Each piece of music used in this study contained at least one thrilling moment that had previously been noted to cause frisson in listeners. As they listened to the music pieces they were asked to report whether or not they experienced frisson by pressing a button. The data of each was then compared and measured against personality tests that they had completed.
A consistent theme across general theories of emotion is that intense emotions are accompanied by increased levels of physiological arousal. The aim in the current study was to determine whether music which elicited intense emotions produced higher levels of physiological arousal than less emotionally powerful music. Twenty-one participants (9 females, 12 males) were exposed to relaxing music, arousing (but not emotionally powerful) music, an emotionally powerful film scene, and a music piece selected by participants as ‘emotionally powerful’. A range of physiological and subjective measures of arousal was recorded before and during the treatments. The emotionally powerful music treatment elicited significantly greater increases in skin conductance and number of chills than the other treatments. The findings are discussed in terms of the sensitivity of skin conductance and chills as measures of emotional intensity, and it is suggested the study offers some support for the emotivist thesis of musical emotions.
It seems we get these skin orgasms because of our emotional response and our openness to experience things. Have you ever experienced frisson? Check out the video below for more on the subject.