Why do we get Goosebumps?


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Imagine yourself captured in these following situations- “On a day when the weather doesn’t seem to be on your side; it feels like chilly winds will freeze you till your bone marrow. And then you plan to enjoy a hot water bath in your bathtub. Oh! But, you forgot your towel out. What will you feel when you’ll keep your first step out of the tub on the COLD floor? “

Or let’s take a situation when “you are chilling out with your friends with no worries at all. Suddenly your phone rings showing that your boss is calling you and you remember that you were given the responsibility of meeting a client on that day. How will you react while answering the phone call?”

Let me help you put your feelings in words- “You’ll get GOOSEBUMPS.”  Isn’t it? Well ‘Getting Goosebumps’ is not any mental condition of fear or anxiety. This is an involuntary reaction that your body or we can say ‘body hair’ tends to give when faced in troubles like those mentioned above. What exactly happens is that tiny hairs on your body (on your hands, your legs etc.) stand straight pulling up your skin just a bit. In medical terms goosebumps can be called as piloerection, horripilation or cutis anserina.

There are many situations when you will feel them. Some of them are jotted down below:

  1. When we face extreme Weather conditions: As explained above, situation 1 is the extreme weather situation when the weather chills out your spine.

Why? When your body is exposed to cold, scientists say, it makes the muscles under each tiny hair of your body to contract. This contraction makes the hair stand straight up. In earlier times, this reaction would protect our ancestors from cold because goosebumps cause a small bubble of air to trap near skin which acts as an insulator.

  1. When we feel threatened: Consider a situation when you accidentally step on a dog’s tail and that turns out to be a ‘Mad dog’. This is an example of a life-threatening situation, where we get goosebumps in a fearful or a scary situation.

Why? It is argued that adrenaline that is pumped into our bodies at times when we feel scared stimulates the muscles at the end of tiny hairs to pull on their roots which then gives them standing effect.  This also causes bumps to be formed on our skin.


Besides these two commonly known causes, there is a lot more to know about these tiny hairs of your body. Continuing:

  1. When we feel embarrassed: Imagine in situation-2 (as mentioned above), if your boss would’ve scolded you in front of your juniors, your body would’ve reacted in a certain way. Apart from your face getting red, your body temperature rising; you would’ve got goosebumps.

Why? In such a situation the brain sends a signal of an “extremely emotional situation”.  For our brain, anything which is emotionally stimulating can be taken as a threat. An emotion-stirring experience activates our “Fight-or-Flight response”.

  1. When we feel emotional chills: Have you ever felt a shiver run down your spine while listening to your favorite song? That causes, sometimes, to stand your body hairs.

Why? As generally perceived, goosebumps, while listening to your most liked genre, occur when something unexpected occurs. And this unexpected happening can be an introduction of a new instrument in the song.

  1. When we see a sad art: If we go as per what researchers say, many of us may feel a shiver when we confront an art piece that is sad or not so eye-soothing. That sensation too causes goosebumps to rise.

Why? This happens because humans tend to feel fear, although for a split second when we are around such an art piece. We feel the loss that is described in the picture or movie to be ours but then at the other moment, the brain realizes it to be false.

  1. When you hide something from someone close to you: Have you ever noticed how your behavior gets affected when you face someone from whom you are keeping secrets. Not only your behavior but your body’s reaction too, changes. You might get goosebumps when you converse with such a person.

Why? If secrets are kept for long, your stress increases. You feel stress ripples running all over your body.  You feel nervousness and tension when the person talks to you over a topic that you are skeptical about and that causes you to get goosebumps.

How long do we get goosebumps?

Not long. This isn’t any medical condition; this is just a temporary involuntary reaction that our body gives in an unexpected sudden situation.

But, the question now arises; will we lose our goosebumps overtime just like we shed our other body hairs too?  

Well, not to our despair, scientists believe that such hairs have a purpose which relates to our survival and hence, there are high chances that this feature too will survive and be passed on generations to generations.

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