You are probably familiar with the feeling when your skin tingles when you hear a certain song. Well, it looks like getting chills from music holds an important meaning.
We know that it has happened to you – a certain song comes on the radio, or you hear someone sing in just the right way, and a shiver goes down your spine. Goosebumps and chills are byproducts of something which is extra special – but what it actually is?
Frisson is experienced by approximately 2/3 of the population on the world, and it is a sensation somewhat like shivering, typically expressed as an overwhelming emotional response.
Mitchell Colver wrote about this fascinating sensation on The Conversation. In the piece, he said:
Listening to emotionally moving music is one of the most common triggers of frisson, but some feel it while they look at the beautiful artwork, watching a particularly sad or romantic scene in a movie, or even having physical contact with a person.
He also wrote:
We have predicted that if a person was more cognitively immersed in a piece of music, then that person might be more likely to experience frisson as a result of paying closer attention to the stimuli.
Furthermore, the researchers wanted to find out if several personality types were more easily triggered by a frisson response than others.
To test this, they had participants wired up to a machine which measured how their skin responded to different pieces of music. Some of the artists included Air Supply, Hans Zimmer, Chopin, as well as several others. According to the researchers conducting this experiment, these songs were chosen as they contained at least one thrilling or climactic moment which would probably cause frisson.
Also, the participants completed a personality test, which Colver together with his team used in order to determine an interesting fact: those that experienced frisson possessed a personality trait which is called “openness to experience.”
The studies we conducted have shown that people that possess this trait have unusually active imaginations, appreciate beauty, as well as nature, seek out some new experiences, usually reflect deeply on their feelings, and love the variety in life.
Another interesting thing that Colver discovered was that it is not only the emotional side of this personality trait which causes a reaction to music, but it is cognitive. For instance, with the use of your mind to imagine how a song is going to play out, or creating mental imagery during a song. Also, it is a combination of these things and being pleasantly surprised when our expectations are exceeded.
Simply said, people that completely immerse themselves in music on an intellectual level, those that do much more than merely ‘hear ‘ it, are more likely to experience the sensation of frisson.