Have you ever been listening to a great piece of music and felt a chill run up your spine? Or goosebumps tickle your arms and shoulders?
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.’
Listening to emotionally moving music is the most common trigger of frisson, but some feel it while looking at beautiful artwork, watching a particularly moving scene in a movie, or having physical contact with another person.
Studies have shown that roughly two-thirds of the population feels frisson, and frisson-loving Reddit users have even created a page to share their favorite frisson-causing media. But why do some people experience frisson and not others?
Working in the lab of Amani El-Alayli, a professor of social psychology at Eastern Washington University, I decided to find out. What causes a thrill, followed by a chill?