Wonder Contributors

Today we’re revisiting a popular Wonder question, thanks to Vanessa from New Zealand, Jill from Minnesota, and Joshua L.! We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us, Wonder Friends!

Do you like to hear scary stories? Whether they’re about headless horsemen, haunted castles or creepy creatures like vampires or werewolves, scary stories are a treasured part of the childhood experience.

A good scary story will give you a thrill and send chills down your spine. It might also give you goose bumps. Have you ever WONDERed exactly what goose bumps are and why you get them when you’re scared?

Goose bumps — sometimes called goose flesh or goose pimples — are the little bumps on your skin at the base of hairs that spring up involuntarily whenever you get cold or experience strong emotions, like fear, pleasure or surprise. They also have a scientific name: kutis ansterina.

Getting goose bumps is a reflex, which is an action your body has automatically without you even thinking about it. This particular reflex is known as the pilomotor reflex. Humans aren’t the only mammals that have this reaction.

For example, when porcupines are threatened, their quills raise in a reflex action. Similarly, you may have seen a cat’s or a dog’s hairs stand on end when they sense danger or feel afraid.

When you get cold or experience a strong emotion, your brain sends signals to your muscles that make them tense up. When the muscles in your skin that are attached to hairs do this, they make the hairs stand up and pull your skin up just a bit, creating goose bumps.

They’re called goose bumps because, when you have them, your skin looks like the skin of a goose or a chicken whose feathers have been plucked out. So, if you want, you could call them chicken bumps, too!

The pilomotor reflex in animals often has the effect of making an animal look bigger. This might help to scare away potential enemies that may have caused the fear reaction in the first place.

In humans, though, the reflex has more to do with muscles. As the body reacts to fear, for example, it will often prepare either to flee or to fight the danger.

This requires muscles to tense and be ready. The reflex helps to get the muscles warmed up and ready to move. Goose bumps also help to reduce heat loss, which helps the body warm up when it’s cold.

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    • Welcome to our first week of Camp What-a-Wonder, Wonder Girl! Thank you for letting us know you liked exploring this SPOOKY STORIES Wonder of the Day®! Be sure to download your very own Activity Page and Podcast to help you WONDER even more about SPOOKY STORIES with us this week! Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/MOiM6q. Happy WONDERing! :-)

  1. I like The Harry Potter books, but they can be scary and give me goose bumps.
    Next time I notice a friend having goose bumps, I am going to use the wonder words and say, “looks like you have kutis ansterina”. It actually sounds like a wizard’s spell :-).

    • We agree with you about the way the words, kutis ansterina, sound, Charlie! It make us feel extra smart for knowing the scientific name for goose bumps! Thanks for sharing your favorite books and THANK YOU for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  2. I do.

    Have you ever heard about Big Time Rush it is my fave band.

    I love Kendall he is soo cute. Can you do a wonder about them?

    • Thanks for sharing that you get goose bumps sometimes, Julia! We HAVE heard about that band before! There are many other Wonder Friends who enjoy their music, too. Thank you for sharing about them and suggesting them as the focus for a future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We think that ROCKS, Wonder Girl! Please let us know what YOU think about this week’s SPOOKY STORIES Activity Page and Podcast, OK? :-)

    • Way to go, Rahul! Thanks for sharing that you already had some background knowledge about the reasons we get goosebumps! We hope you learned a few new things by checking out today’s Wonder, too! :-)

    • We think YOU ROCK for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us for the very first day of Camp What-a-Wonder 2012, Julie! Thanks for sharing what gives you goose bumps and for letting us know that you really liked today’s Wonder! :-)

    • That really IS a coincidence, Lucas! We thought it was REALLY cool to learn how our bodies make goose bumps! We get them a lot when we’re cold here in Wonderopolis! Thanks for being a WONDERful Wonder Friend!

  3. Hey, did You know that our goose bumps were suppose keep us warmer when we’re cold and are suppose to scare off threats that are bigger than us? That was how we evolved over time from the past way back then!!!!!

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about muscles.

    • Thanks so much for sharing what you know about goose bumps, icebat2! We like it when our Wonder Friends (like you!) add something awesome to our Wonders of the Day with their comments…thanks for making today’s Wonder extra GREAT! We like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too! :-)

  4. Did you know that I [or you] can transfer cold air down your body? It starts from head to arms to legs. All you have to do is push your mussels, it’s easy. :-)

    • That sounds cool, Carlos! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today…we’ll have to try that next time! We hope you had a WONDERful first day of Camp What-a-Wonder…we know WE sure did! :-)

  5. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I loved today’s wonder! I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about construction.

    1 question, what is Camp What-A-Wonder? Please reply.

    I didn’t leave a comment yesterday or the day before because I was too busy.

    Remember back on Wonder of the day #635 – Can some natural flavors be artificial? I thought wonder of the day #636 was about mountains or roller coasters and I was wrong. Wonder of the day #636 was not about mountains or roller coasters. Wonder of the day #636 was Where’s the best tree house?


    • Happy Monday, TJ! It’s SUPER great to hear from you today!

      Camp What-a-Wonder is a FUN-FILLED summer online camp here in Wonderopolis! Every Monday in July, we’ll post a different camp-related Wonder of the Day® and share a new Activity Sheet and Podcast that focuses on a different fun thing about going to camp. This week’s theme is SPOOKY STORIES. You can download the Activity Sheet and Podcast here (they’re really awesome!): http://wonderopolis.org/camp-what-a-wonder/.

      We’ll have special chats with online Camp Counselors on Twitter, too! Visiting Camp What-a-Wonder is a GREAT way to share, learn and grow while we’re exploring and keeping our Wonder brains sharp over the summer! :-)

  6. Great idea, Charlie! I’ll have to use the scientific name when one of my GrandGirls gets goose bumps. It will be a learning tool!
    Thanks for the explanation of goose bumps.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment today, Jane! We think Charlie’s idea was AWESOME, too! We’re glad to see our Wonder Friends encouraging each other and sharing awesome stuff in their comments! We can ALL learn new things by hanging out in Wonderopolis together! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We’re so SUPER happy you like it, Wonder Girl! Be sure to check for a new Activity Sheet and Podcast every Monday in July…there will be four in all! Happy WONDERing! :-)

  7. I don’t have any goosebumps right now. When I am much colder, my goosebumps spring up. I also get goosebumps when I twist my knee. I didn’t know that Coco, my dog, gets goosebumps until my mommy read me this wonder. From, Fiona

    • Hello, Fiona! What a treat it is for us to receive a comment from you today! We’re glad you learned something new about goose bumps…that animals get them, too! We had FUN exploring this Wonder and it makes us SUPER happy to hear that you and your mom did, too! :-)

    • Well, we LOVE reading the comments you write for us in Wonderopolis, Olivia! Thanks for always being so super positive and for sharing awesome stories! We enjoyed hearing about the time you got goose bumps! :-)

    • We love how much you’re WONDERing about good bumps, Sheyla! We love learning about WHY things happen, even reflexes like goose bumps! These involuntary bumps occur when we experience strong emotion, like excitement or fear! We Wonder if you can continue to research other types of reflexes on your own! Thank you for WONDERing with us– we are so glad you’re here! :)

  8. It seems to me that MY goose bumps are huge compared to other people’s goose bumps. I wonder why? By the way, I love a good scary movie!

    • Hi there Mrs. Poplos, thanks for commenting on our shiver of a Wonder! We bet goose bumps are different for each person, especially if the pores of our skin are different sizes. We bet you get some goose bumps while enjoying your favorite scary film– just in time for the upcoming Halloween season! :)

    • Well thank you, Skye! We are glad that our Wonder helped you understand why you might have goosebumps in the morning! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :)

  9. Hi Wonderopolis!
    I loved your wonder on goose bumps and I have always wondered that until now.
    I was happy to learn that goose bumps are sometimes called goose pimples and that it’s scientific name is Kutis Ansterina.
    A question I have is are they a certain size?
    And what is camp what-a-wonder?
    Thanks for the wonder!
    Emma D.

    • How cool, Emma D! We are glad to help you solve your Wonder today! Goose bumps sizes depend on the pores of your skin (where your hair grows). You goose bumps might be similar in size, but someone in your family might have completely different sized bumps! :)

      Camp What-A-Wonder is an online camp Wonderopolis hosts every summer. Since many of our Wonder Friends don’t go to school during the summer, Camp is a fun place to Wonder and use our imaginations together! Perhaps you’ll participate next summer!? :)

    • Hooray, we’re so glad this Wonder helped you with your research, Belle! Hooray for the science behind goose bumps! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Keisha! Thanks for sharing your comment about our Camp What-A-Wonder activity! During the summer, we host a virtual Wonder Camp for all our Wonder Friends to join. We hope you’ll be a part of it this summer! In the meantime, you can still Wonder with us every day! Thanks for asking! :)

  10. This helps! :) I’m glad. But… I’m wondering if you can help me on a good hook for goosebumps. A hook that doesn’t start with a question? I would like your help :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Serenity! We’re so glad our goose bump Wonder helped you with your work! We are so glad you shared your comment with us! We know you can find a good hook– perhaps you can think about what you would like to read! Put yourself in your audience’s shoes! :)

    • We’re glad you made a WONDERful observation about goosebumps when you’re chilly, Abby! It’s awesome that you learned all about how your body reacts to different temperatures, and even different emotions! So much to Wonder and learn about! Thank you for sharing your comment today! :)

  11. I learned that goose bumps have many names. I was surprised that the thing that causes goose bumps was adrenaline. I wanted to know more about that. Is it just in our head or is it natural? This was a topic that really was fascinating! Please do more of these that are really fun to watch.

    • Hello Wonderfriend! We are so glad that you enjoyed today’s Wonder about goose bumps! We agree with you that they truly ARE fascinating! What is your favorite topic to Wonder about? :)

  12. I learned that you can get goose bumps from many different things.
    I was surprised that you can get goose bumps from fear.
    I want to know more about goose bumps.
    I thought goose bumps happen just because you are cold.

  13. I learned that goose bumps are caused by many different things. I was surprised that there is a different name for goose bumps. Its called, kutis ansterina. I want to know more about some other reasons why its caused. I love wonderopolis. Its such a cool website and it has so many cool things on it that I don’t know about.

    • Thanks for your WONDERful comment, Eva! We are so glad that you love WONDERing with us here at Wonderopolis! What kinds of things do you like to Wonder about the most? Have a fantastic Friday! :)

  14. I learned goose bumps happen on more than just people.
    I was surprised that it happens for more than one reason.
    I want to know more about how it happens.
    It is cool that it happens when people when experiencing emotions.

    • Thanks for your comment, Bradford! When do you get goose bumps? Do you get them when you are happy? What about when you are scared? Wonder on, Wonderfriend! :)

  15. I learned that you get goose bumps when your scared,cold or surprised. I was surprised that you get goose bumps when you’re scared. I want to know more about this topic. This was a great wonder.

    • Thanks, Alexa! We think it is TOTALLY awesome that you want to keep WONDERing about goose bumps! When do you usually get goose bumps? Come back again soon! :)

  16. I learned that you get goose bumps when your scared. I was surprised to hear that people get goose bumps because i when geese or chickens get there feathers plucked off that is what it looks like. I want to know more about how this works! Goose bumps are cool!

  17. I learned that you can get goose bumps for numerous reasons.
    I was surprised that they’re from the muscles in your arms that connect to your hairs.
    I want to know more about the ways you can get goose bumps.
    I also am confused about how goose bumps happen and how often people get them.

  18. I learned that goosebumps are when your hair stands up and pulls your skin a little. I was surprised to learn that goosebumps are also called goose pimples. I want to learn more about goosebumps. I learned a lot about goose bumps.

  19. This was an okay article. When it said your reaction might be to flee or fight the danger, I want to know if you can change your reaction from flee or jump back to hit or fight. How long would it take to do this?

    • We do too! We Wonder what other times you get goosebumps? Do you get them when you are scared? Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

  20. I learned that they are attached to arm hairs
    i was surprised by why they are there.
    i want to know how many I have, or if dogs get them.

    • Thanks for WONDERing with us today, Meredith! We’re oh-so-happy that you’ve learned something new today! HOORAY for WONDERing! :)

  21. I learned that goose bumps make your hair longer. I was surprised that goose bumps come when your cold. I liked the video how it shows what goose bumps look like. I love to know about new things.

    • What’s really interesting, Matthew, is that humans share some of our genetic code with ALL lifeforms on Earth, from bacteria to plants to animals! Isn’t that SUPER cool? We sure think so! :D

  22. I still want to know what si the goose bumps because the article didn’t tell me that and I really want to know that so someone find that out please.

    • Thanks for WONDERing with us, Hannah! Goose bumps is just the term used for how your skin appears when your muscles tense up and cause the hairs on your skin to stand up. When your hairs stand up, they lightly pull the surrounding skin up too, causing little temporary bumps. :)

  23. Hi Wonderopolis. I thought this wonder ws very cool. also what is your favortie horror movie or horrore game my favorite horror game is Five Nights At Freddy’s 2

  24. I was wondering if it is unusual that I could create “goose bumps” over most of my body just by mentally requesting them???

    • Interesting question, Paul Wallach! Maybe you could research more about goose bumps at your library. Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do you get goose bumps?
  • What is the pilomotor reflex?
  • Why are they called goose bumps?

Wonder Gallery

goose bumps_shutterstock_16417681goosebumps-7goosebumps-6Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Have you ever had goosebumps? Maybe you can experience them by checking out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Did you realize that fear can be A Full-Body Experience? It’s true. Just visit Mr. Goose Bumps online to learn about the other parts of your body that experience changes during a typical fear reaction. Which of these reactions are you familiar with? Can you think of a time when you’ve experienced some of these other bodily changes?
  • Human beings aren’t the only creatures to experience fear. Animals can experience fear, too. What do they do when they’re afraid? It depends upon the situation, but some of the most common reactions are freeze, flight or fight. Click on the links to learn more about these reactions that help animals deal with fear. Have you ever been near an animal that was afraid? Have you ever seen any of these reactions? For example, perhaps you’ve seen a dog or cat with hair raised all along its back? What kinds of things do you think make animals afraid? Discuss your ideas with a friend or family member.
  • If you like scary movies — or stories! — or thrilling rides like roller coasters, then you already know that fear can be fun, too. Go to The Fun Side of Fear to learn more! Why do you think some people embrace fear and even enjoy it? What examples other than roller coasters can you think of? Ask your friends and family members whether they ever look forward to thrills that can be on the scary side.

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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