Why do we listen to music? Because it is an incredibly powerful creation that runs through our system and can physically transform the wiring of our brains. Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. It can put you right in the feels, reduce you to tears or get you dancing off of your feet.
But for some of us music goes even deeper, and our whole body reacts to it. If music literally sends shivers down your spine, then you have a really unique brain and personality trait!
Shivers Down Your Spine
Think of your favorite song. Ask yourself “why do you like it so much?” Maybe it’s nostalgic, maybe it’s fun or it just makes you feel good. Whatever the case, it makes you feel something that goes beyond your sense of hearing and speaks directly to your wiring. It can speak to you so profoundly that it makes your body shiver.
Mitchell Colve,r a science writer, explains: “The experience is called frisson (pronounced free-sawn), a French term meaning “aesthetic chills,” and it feels like waves of pleasure running all over your skin. Some researchers have even dubbed it a ‘skin orgasm.'” It basically feels like you’re making love to the music.
Starts With An Emotional Reaction
Listening to emotionally moving music is the most common trigger of frisson. However the same passion and evoked emotion is seen in the experience of art in general. Some feel it when they look at mesmerizing art, watch a moving scene in a movie, take in a picturesque piece of nature, or even when having physical contact with another person.
Studies have shown that roughly two-thirds of the population feels frisson. However not everyone is able to allow themselves to submerge themselves in such a stimulating experience, it takes a certain type of personality…
It Depends On Personality
The study explains that for a person to experience goosebumps or “frissons” they have to not be cognitively immersed in the experience of the music, but they also have to be paying closer attention to the stimuli. But what helps someone give that kind of focus?
Here’s the study’s theory: “We suspected that whether or not someone would become cognitively immersed in a piece of music in the first place would be a result of his or her personality type.” A person has to be willing to get transported outside of their physical body and into the full experience of the music. This requires a flow and detachment that not everyone is able to live in.
The Found Special Personality Trait
To find out what personality traits and qualities separated those who felt goosebumps from music from those who didn’t, the scientists hooked up test participants to a machine that measured their skin response. “They were then played various pieces of music by artists including Air Supply, Hans Zimmer and Chopin,” they explain.
The choice of music was made based on songs that were known to hold thrilling or climactic moments that might cause frissons. The participants also filled out a personality test that would help the researchers distinguish which traits are associated with the sensation. What they found was that those who experienced goosebumps possessed a personality trait called “openness to experience”.
More Appreciation, Imagination And Adventure
Having “openness to experience” as part of your personality means that you’re the kind of person who dreams big and achieves more than those who limit themselves, are afraid to take risks, and never see what life beyond comfort looks like. These people appreciate trying new things, expanding their horizons, and want to live life to the fullest.
Studies found that people who possess this trait have unusually active imaginations, appreciate beauty and nature, seek out new experiences, often reflect deeply on their feelings, and love variety in life,” he wrote. This helps them live fearlessly and lead a life without regrets. They follow their intuition and chase their dreams.
The Thrill Of The Chase
When it comes to music these people look forward to unexpected harmonies, sudden changes in volume, or the moving entrance of a soloist. These musical passages trigger goosebumps because they go against the listener’s expectations and surprise them in a good way.
With that same mentality, those same listeners embrace change and even look forward to it because they are excited to see what opportunities it could bring. Just like a moving passage builds up to a beautiful high note, the listener reaches a climactic moment that is emotionally charged and fills them with a thrill. With high risk comes high reward.
It’s Not An Emotional Reaction
While studies like this have been done before, Colver has changed the understanding that it’s an emotional reaction that’s causing the goosebumps and has instead found that it’s a cognitive one that takes into account several factors: “such as making mental predictions about how the music is going to unfold or engaging in musical imagery (a way of processing music that combines listening with daydreaming).”
That means that those who have goosebumps are experiencing music beyond their emotions and on an intellectual level that allows them to process it and connect it to a higher meaning.
How Well Are You Really Listening?
if you’re looking for more information on music affects your cognition and emotional response, then you’ll need your own reading. We’re each on our own unique path with experiences that shape the way we feel and process.
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