Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sonic Chills

When you listen to music- like, really, really good music- do you get the chills?
I do. I definitely do.
I get it when I listen to music, see a breathtaking image- generally whenever I have a really great aesthetic experience.
And, apparently, I'm one of the roughly two-thirds of people who do.

This sensation, the chill up your spine, the goosebumps on your arms and shoulders and neck, is called "frission" (t's French). And, according to a recent article on The Conversation, by Mitchell Colver, it's likely an evolutionary holdover from our ancestors, a physiological response to emotionally moving stimuli.

And it's great. It's really great. So great that scientists often refer to it as the, ahem, "skin orgasm." But, if I'm only one of the two-thirds of people who experience it, that means there's a whole third of people out there who don't. Which is unfortunate. Researchers believe that personality may play a role, with individuals who score high on tests to measure "openness to experience" being more likely to experience frission. Recently published findings in the Journal of Psychology and Music suggest that those who intellectually immerse themselves in music are more likely to experience the phenomenon.

All this leads me to question the role these factors play in one's overall enjoyment of the arts. Not to be a physiological determinist, but the notion is compelling.

And for those who want to learn to enjoy art more... it doesn't seem out of the question to consciously be "intellectually immersed." In other words: try harder, and see what happens.

Top image: Ann Trilling/Thinkstock