About 50 percentage of people get chills when listening to music. research shows that ’ s because music stimulates an ancient reward pathway in the mind, encouraging dopamine to flood the striatum—a part of the forebrain activated by addiction, reward, and motivation. Music, it seems, may affect our brains the like way that sex, gamble, and potato chips do .
queerly, those dopamine levels can peak several seconds before the song ’ south special moment. That ’ second because your brain is a good listener—it ’ s constantly predicting what ’ s going to happen next. ( evolutionarily speaking, it ’ s a handy habit to have. Making good predictions is essential for survival. )
But music is crafty. It can be unpredictable, teasing our brains and keeping those dopamine triggers guessing. And that ’ s where the chills may come in. Because when you ultimately hear that hanker anticipated harmonize, the corpus striatum sighs with dopamine-soaked atonement and—BAM—you get the chills. The greater the build-up, the greater the cool.
Reading: Why Does Music Give You Chills?
But there are competing theories. Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, for case, discovered that deplorable music triggers chills more much than felicitous music. He argues that a melancholy tune activates an ancient, chill-inducing mechanism—a distress response our ancestors felt when separated from family. When a ballad makes us feel nostalgic or pensive, that evolutionary design kicks into gear .
What ’ south interesting about Panksepp ’ second theory, though, is that chills don ’ metric ton sadden most people. The experience is overwhelmingly cocksure. late research shows that sad music actually evokes positive emotions—sadness experienced through artwork is more pleasant than the gloominess you experience from a bad day at the office .
And this may hint at another theory. The amygdala, which processes your emotions, responds uniquely to music. A drab tune may activate a fear reaction in the amygdala, making your hair stand on end. When that happens, your brain quickly reviews whether there ’ s any very danger. When it realizes there ’ second nothing to worry about, that fear response becomes positive. The fear subsides but the chill remains.
You can feel chills from any music genre, whether it ’ s Mozart, Madonna, tango, or techno. It ’ s the structure—not the style—that counts. Goosebumps most frequently occur when something unexpected happens : A modern instrument enters, the form shift, the volume abruptly dims. It ’ south all about the element of surprise .
The most knock-down chills may occur when you know what ’ second coming future. When our expectations are being met, the nucleus accumbens becomes more active. This ties back to that dopamine-inducing guess game our mind likes to play. As a result, being companion can enhance the shudder of the chill. ( possibly that ’ s why 90 percentage of musicians report feeling chills. )
Your personality matters, besides. Scientists at UNC Greensboro found that people who are more open to fresh experiences are more probable to feel a quiver down their spur ( possibly because open individuals are more likely to play instruments ). meanwhile, researchers in Germany found that people who felt chills were less likely to be bang seekers, but were more reward-driven .