Why Do We Get Goosebumps?

Imagine you’re watching a scary movie and a masked man suddenly appears and kills the beautiful girl, scaring the hell out of you and giving you those infamous ‘goosebumps’.


To get over the scary film that you were just watching, you decide to go for a swim in a nearby lake. The water is quite warm, but there is a strong wind blowing, and the moment you step out of the water, you feel chilly and for the second time that night, you get goosebumps.

That same night, you’re listening to some old music, and it brings back some fond memories. You begin to get all nostalgic and emotional, and guess what! You get “goosebumps” yet again!

So, why do these three unrelated events all seem to produce the same physical reaction in the body?

What Are Goosebumps and Why Do We Get Them?

Goosebumps are tiny elevations of the skin at the base of the hair, causing out skin to resemble the skin of poultry after the feathers have been plucked. The physical reaction of goosebumps have been passed to humans from our animal ancestors, who once had a lot more hair on their bodies.

Goosebumps are caused when stress (cold temperature, perceived threat, intense emotions etc.) is experienced by our brain. In these moments, the nervous system sends message to nerve endings that trigger the arrector pili muscles, which cause goosebumps to appear.

In animals with long hair, goosebumps help them protect against cold weather, as standing hair provides more insulation to the body. Also, a number of animals, including cats, use goosebumps to look larger and more intimidating when they feel threatened.

In humans, goosebumps are a pretty useless feature, as we do not have much hair on our skin, but it can be a good indicator of our surroundings, whether we are too chilly, nervous, overextended, or emotionally drained!

To get the full story on goosebumps, check out this cool video.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Why Do We Get Goose Bumps? – Smithsonian’s Human Origins
  3. Scientific American
The short URL of the present article is: http://sciabc.us/cPfgi
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About the Author:

Ashwin Vinod has a B.Tech in Electronics and Communications from APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Trivandrum (India). He likes to watch movies, reading fiction novels and surf the internet.

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