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Note: This item refers to the emotionally or imaginatively triggered sensation of 'Frisson' rather than shiver reactions caused by cold or fever etc.

Chills, 'goosebumps' etc can be induced in a number of ways: musical, scenic, tactile, and even taste sensations etc etc.

A number of experiments have investigated the phenomenon, and researchers have discovered several fairly reliable ways of inducing the feeling. A 2009 paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences suggested that:

… chills are a reliable indicator of individual emotional peaks, combining reports of subjective feelings with physiological arousal."

But to date there is no current explanation of how it happens, or what function (if any) it may have.

Note on musically induced chills :

‘Chills’ (frisson manifested as goose bumps or shivers) have been used in an increasing number of studies as indicators of emotions in response to music (e.g., Craig, 2005; Guhn, Hamm, & Zentner, 2007; McCrae, 2007; Panksepp, 1995; Sloboda, 1991)."

Source : Psychology of Music April 2011 vol. 39 no. 2 220-239
“We would like to suggest that chills need to be used in combination with other emotion measurements. Accordingly, they could provide some interesting opportunities which, depending on the experimental setting, might offer new information in the complex and developing field of emotion research.”

The study above researched other (non musical) chill inducers - including visual, tactile, and taste stimulation.

Although many such triggering factors have been identified, there is currently no accepted explanation of any kind. Neither are there any backed-up theories regarding any possible evolutionary advantages of such a phenomenon.

It is unclear how music elicits chills (emotional experiences accompanied by goosebumps, shivers, and tingling sensations), and what psychological mechanisms underlie the response. Crucially, current explanations of chills struggle to encapsulate the variability of results linking the experience to musical features, psychophysiological activity, and individual differences, suggesting there may be distinct types of musical chills elicited through different underlying mechanisms.

Source : Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (advance online publication, Oct. 2021)

A rated list of music found to be most likely to induce chills (a Canadian study from 2009)

  • Shostakovich, Symphony No. 4 – Mov. 3, Classical, score 20:30
  • Copland, Appalachian Spring Suite, Classical, score 20:00
  • Shostakovich, Symphony No. 11 – Mov. 2, Classical, score 14:00
  • Mahler, Symphony No. 1 – Mov. 1, Classical, score 14:00
  • Shostakovich, 11th Symphony – Mov. 2, Classical, score 13:45
  • Mahler, Symphony No. 2 – Mov. 1, Classical, score 13:00
  • Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4 – Mov. 1, Classical, score 12:32
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Static, Post-Rock, score 11:20
  • Phish, You Enjoy Myself, Jazz Fusion, score 10:50
  • Shostakovich, Symphony No. 11 – Mov. 4,Classical, score 10:00
  • Holst, First Suite in E Flat, Classical, score 9:07

See:‘The Rewarding Aspects of Music Listening Are Related to Degree of Emotional Arousal’ , PLOS | ONE, October 16, 2009.

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