Wonder Contributors

Today’s Wonder question comes from Mrs. Cutshall’s and Mrs. Savage’s Fifth Grade classes at Tyler Run Elementary in Powell, Ohio! Thanks to all our Wonder Friends who want to know about why beautiful music can give you goose bumps!

Have you ever been watching a sporting event, such as the Super Bowl, when suddenly the Star Spangled Banner starts playing? You realize you were fine just a few seconds ago, but now you’re getting goose bumps! Why is this happening?

Goose bumps are small bumps that appear on your skin for many different reasons. Some people also refer to goose bumps as the “shivers” or the “chills.” You get goose bumps more often than you would think. That’s why researchers are looking into the mystery behind goose bumps.

Goose bumps start in the part of the body called the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system sends signals from your brain to your skin. Goose bumps usually happen when you get cold or feel certain powerful emotions, such as fear.

When you feel certain powerful emotions, a part of your brain called the hypothalamus sends a message via your nerves to the muscles in your skin to tighten up. When the skin on your body gets tight, your hairs stand on end and goose bumps form.

Goose bumps helped your ancestors to survive. Long ago, prehistoric human beings had much more hair than we do now. Thick hair was all over their bodies! If you were cold, your nervous system would send a signal to your skin, saying “I am cold, warm me up!”

Goose bumps would make your hair stand on end, trapping more heat close to your body. It would warm you up, helping you to survive the cold. That’s not the only way that goose bumps would help your ancestors, though.

If ancient human beings were scared or attacked by a predator, they would also get goose bumps. The goose bumps would puff up the hair all over their bodies. They would look larger and scarier, so they could frighten predators away!

Now that you’ve learned how goose bumps could help ancient humans to survive, you’re probably still WONDERing exactly how goose bumps are related to music. As you may have experienced before, goose bumps can occur when you hear a love song, a classic song, or a passionate version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a Bowling Green State University neurobiologist, has a theory about why people get goose bumps from music. People can feel intense emotions, like sadness and passion, when they listen to music. Dr. Panksepp believes that, when people feel strong emotions, their brains release the same chemicals that tell the skin to form goose bumps.

Although goose bumps used to help us survive, we usually take them for granted today. The next time you get the “chills,” though, pay attention! They could be sending you a message, such as “danger is near” or “put on a coat because it’s cold!”

If you get the “shivers” when your favorite song comes on, it probably just means that you’re experiencing strong emotions related to the song. Goose bumps may be a bit annoying, but they’re really meant to help us! So, the next time you’re listening to your favorite song, just kick back and let the goose bumps do their job!

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    • Thank you for sharing your comment with us, Trina! Listening to beautiful music always makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside too! :)

  1. I didn’t know that goosebumps helped our ancestors survive by if you were cold your nervous system would send a signal to your skin.

    • We’re so glad to hear that you learned something new from today’s Wonder, Karla! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis! :)

  2. Exactly how long was the ancient humans hair if they could scare animals or any other kind of creature away? I did not know that goose bumps were called or could mean many different ways.

    • That’s interesting, Trina! Our body temperature does lower a little when we sleep. Perhaps those goose bumps are telling you you’re a bit chilly! :)

  3. Jordyn- I feel bumps on your arms.
    Javion-I get cold and get goose bumps.
    Maryann-Do goose bumps come when you grow?
    Amber-I get goose bumps on my legs.
    Gab- I get goose bumps when I wake up.
    Sanaa-I’ve had goose bumps before when I was cold.
    Brian- I get goose bumps all the time, because I am cold.

    • Hello, Mrs. Utter’s Class! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! It looks like everyone has experienced goose bumps before! Do any of you have a favorite song that gives you goose bumps? :)

  4. I have got goose bumps before but only when I am cold. I do not get how you can get goose bumps when you are lisening to music tell me Daija G

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis and sharing your comment, Daija G! We have found that we especially get goose bumps if a singer reaches a very high note and sings it beautifully, like Jennifer Hudson does in the video for today’s Wonder of the Day! Just thinking about it gives us a little chill! Perhaps you can spend some time listening to different songs to see if any give you the shivers! :)

  5. Does your body react in a specific way when someone doesn’t sing beautifully?

    What is the purpose of goosebumps?

    How big can goosebumps get?

  6. Our class still wants to know how your brain knows when you are scared and how does it know when to send the signal for goose bumps?

    • We agree, it does feel kind of strange when you get goose bumps, Simon C! We’re not sure why it feels funny, but you can get goose bumps when you’re scared, when you’re cold, or sometimes you can even get them when you get too hot! It’s best to pay attention when you get them – your body is trying to tell you something! :)

  7. Back then why did people have so much hair all over there body?
    By the way I love today’s wonder. Everyday I love to check the wonder of the day.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by Wonderopolis and sharing your comment, Torrance H.! We encourage you to embark on a Wonder adventure to explore ancient humans! Be sure to come back here and share what you learn with all of us! :)

  8. This video was so special it looked like the football players were going to cry I was about to cry and get goose bumps at the same time SO YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS VIDEO AIGAN AND AIGAN and do you like this video once you watch it?

    • We really liked the video, Brooklyn! It gave us goose bumps too! Are there other songs that have the same effect on you? :)

    • That’s a great question, Jenna G.! We usually don’t get goose bumps when someone sings really badly. Perhaps hearing a not-so-good singer does not evoke the same powerful emotions as hearing really lovely music. We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us today! :)

  9. Hey wonderopolis it’s me JACLYN S, I loved today’s wonder when i sing i get goosebumps before and after too. I love to sing I am very good at it to. I love to EXPLORE the wonders.

    • It’s awesome that you have a lovely singing voice, Jaclyn! Do you like to sing in front of others? :) Thanks for exploring Wonders with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do you get goose bumps when someone sings beautifully?
  • How did goose bumps help ancient humans to survive?
  • What causes goose bumps?

Wonder Gallery

goosebumps-3goosebumps-4goosebumps-2goosebumps-1Cutshall - Grade 5 - Wonderopolis Photo - Goosebumps (Custom)Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Did today’s Wonder of the Day give you the “chills”? We hope so! Keep the goose bumps coming by exploring these fun activities!

  • When’s the last time you got goose bumps? Was it while watching a scary movie on a dark night? Maybe it was when the temperature dropped suddenly and you didn’t have your coat with you. Or perhaps it was when you heard an old song come on the radio that you hadn’t heard in years. Think back a bit and write a short story about the last time you got goose bumps. Share your story with a friend or family member. Can they remember the last time they got goose bumps?
  • Have you ever gotten goose bumps from hearing a particular song? What types of music trigger strong emotions when you hear them? Spend some time surfing through your favorite songs to see if one of them might give you the “shivers.” If nothing new seems to do the trick, try some old music from several years ago. Perhaps you’ll run across an old song that brings back a powerful memory that will give you goose bumps. Have fun experiencing the connection between music, emotions, and goose bumps. Invite a friend or family member to share in the fun, too! What songs give them goose bumps?
  • How sensitive is your skin to changes in temperature? Can you give yourself goose bumps? Give it a try today. If it’s cold enough outside, try stepping outside without a jacket. Pay particular attention to your skin’s reaction to the cold. How quickly does your skin form goose bumps? Do the hairs on your body stand up? If it’s warm outside, you can always try the same experiment by putting your arm inside the refrigerator or freezer for a few seconds or stepping into a cold shower. Isn’t it cool to see your skin’s reaction and know why it’s happening?

Still Wondering

Explore ReadWriteThink’s Thrills! Chills! Using Scary Stories to Motivate Students to Read lesson to examine story elements through teacher read-alouds and independent reading. Then use reader-response journals and graphic organizers to create your own scary story!

Test Your Knowledge

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