Why does another person's emotion also affect me?

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Gary Qualter

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Gary Qualter  asked the Naked Scientists:

Hello Chris,

Thanks for a fantastic show, I am a seriously impressed podcast listener (I listen on my iPhone while doing my milk round in the early hours).

As far as your CV is concerned, all I can say is whatever job you might apply decide to for, I think you will probably get it.

My question;
When I listen to a great piece of music, or listen to the radio commentary of an athlete say having an amazing victory and winning an Olympic gold medal, why do I get tingles down my spine, goosebumps, and maybe even weep a few tears.

What is happening to my body biologically, and why?

Thanks for a great show.
Gary, the milkman in Exeter

What do you think?


Offline Karen W.

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Why does another person's emotion also affect me?
« Reply #1 on: 10/11/2008 07:02:31 »
I posted this question down in this thread..never really got an answer to the emotional side though... But perhaps they are both related?

Welcome to the forum!


Karen w.
[quote/]MessageID: 140960
24/11/2007 12:12:04
Thanks Paul now I understand..

One more question what about goosebumps not from fear or cold, but from something really good. a good thought, or something so mushilly romantic and sweet it gives you goosebumps, Like when some one says something so special and so wonderful that every hair on your body stands up and the goosebumps spread rapidly across your skin? what causes that?

Even seeing someone do something really sweet for someone else gives me goose bumps a and so does hearing an incredible singer sing a great song..Yep gives me goosebumps and thats how I pick my music! LOL![quote/]

"Life is not measured by the number of Breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."


Offline amber

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Why does another person's emotion also affect me?
« Reply #2 on: 16/01/2009 11:30:39 »
Hello,Dear! It's really great show.
Thanks for sharing it with us.
I am seriously impressed Rap music listener.

Mod edit - Spammy links removed
« Last Edit: 16/01/2009 11:49:18 by BenV »


Offline Chemistry4me

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Why does another person's emotion also affect me?
« Reply #3 on: 17/01/2009 00:35:01 »
George A. Bubenik, a physiologist and professor of zoology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, explains.

Imagine swimming in a lake on a hot summer day. The water is quite warm, but the wind is strong and the moment you leave the water you feel chilly and get "goosebumps." So you change clothes and move inside to warm up. You make a nice cup of tea, get under a blanket and switch on the radio. Suddenly, you hear a song from a long time ago, the song your grandmother used to sing to you when you were a child. Again, you feel a chill on your back and again, you get goosebumps. Why do such seemingly unrelated events elicit the same body reaction? The reason for this is the physiology of emotions.

Goosebumps are a physiological phenomenon inherited from our animal ancestors, which was useful to them but are not of much help to us. Goosebumps are tiny elevations of the skin that resemble the skin of poultry after the feathers have been plucked. (Therefore we could as well call them "turkeybumps" or "duckbumps.") These bumps are caused by a contraction of miniature muscles that are attached to each hair. Each contracting muscle creates a shallow depression on the skin surface, which causes the surrounding area to protrude. The contraction also causes the hair to stand up whenever the body feels cold. In animals with a thick hair coat this rising of hair expands the layer of air that serves as insulation. The thicker the hair layer, the more heat is retained. In people this reaction is useless because we do not have a hair coat, but goosebumps persist nevertheless.

In addition to cold, the hair will also stand up in many animals when they feel threatened--in a cat being attacked by a dog, for example. The elevated hair, together with the arched back and the sideward position the animal often assumes, makes the cat appear bigger in an attempt to make the dog back off. People also tend to experience goosebumps during emotional situations, such as walking down the aisle during their wedding, standing on a podium and listening to a national anthem after winning in sports, or even just watching horror movies on television. Quite often a person may get goosebumps many years after a significant event, just by thinking about the emotions she once experienced, perhaps while listening to the romantic song to which she danced many years ago with the love of her life.

The reason for all these responses is the subconscious release of a stress hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline, which in humans is produced in two small beanlike glands that sit atop the kidneys, not only causes the contraction of skin muscles but also influences many other body reactions. In animals, this hormone is released when the animal is cold or facing a stressful situation, preparing the animal for flight-or-fight reaction. In humans, adrenaline is often released when we feel cold or afraid, but also if we are under stress and feel strong emotions, such as anger or excitement. Other signs of adrenaline release include tears, sweaty palms, trembling hands, an increase in blood pressure, a racing heart or the feeling of 'butterflies' in the stomach.