Imagine walking down a dark alley and suddenly a shadow crosses your path! Well, imaging it gives us goosebumps. What is the word we just used? It is a unique physiological development that causes the hairs on the skin to rise without any control. We also feel a trembling sensation throughout the body sometimes. Well, there is science behind goosebumps.
It happens but not all the time. When we feel a chill when the body temperature drops or something unprecedented occurs, our hairs rise from their dormant position. It also happens when we know about something known that is about to happen and experience goosebumps.
Goosebumps are a normal reflex action in response to a stimulus. Our body reacts in a particular way when something happens to trigger the hairs to rise from their dormant positions. It generally happens when we perceive a drop in body temperature or sudden unexpected development of events.
It happens when we are frightened or threatened by a particular situation. It is the brain’s way of alarming our systems. If you look closely, you will find that the hair on your body is erect. They also feel a little tightened with the follicles rising from their submerged level. The bumps on the skin can be felt when we touch them.
Now the question is where this phenomenon gets its name from. When we peel off the feathers of a goose, we find its skin having small bumps distributed evenly throughout its body. The goosebumps on skin feel the same when we run our fingers and visualise them.
As mentioned earlier, a sudden drop in body temperature gives us goosebumps. It can also happen when we are listening to a song or enjoying something that fascinates us. We also experience it when we are threatened or frightened. As per its definition, it is a conditional reflex, a physiological phenomenon triggered by our brain to tell us something. It can also be due to the sudden surge of happiness.
Scientific Reason Behind Goosebumps
Well, the scientific reason behind this natural phenomenon explains something different. It is a simple biological process when a hormone named adrenaline is released in our body. It is released from the adrenal gland and an instant reaction begins throughout our body. The heart rate increases and the brain (central nervous system) signals the muscles attached to each and every hair follicle to contract or become tense.
Due to such development, the tensed or contracted muscle attached to a hair makes the latter become erect. This contraction or tension also causes the hair follicle to form a minute bump on the skin. The name of these muscles is arrector pili. The contraction and relaxation of this muscle cause goosebumps.
There are many reasons behind experiencing goosebumps. Here is the list of reasons why we get them.
As mentioned earlier, when our body temperature drops, we get goosebumps. It is linked to the ancestral reflex action that enabled the early men to conserve body heat by trapping air. In prehistoric times, we use to have a heavy coat of hair or fur. When the temperature dropped, the skin hairs rose to trap air and keep us warm.
The contraction of the arrector muscles also closes the skin pores. It might be a way of preserving body heat and stopping sweating to preserve heat.
There is a diverse range of emotional feelings that can make our hairs stand. It can be fear or mere excitement from some news. It can be a sense of pride or someone praising you for achievement. It can also be due to feeling awe or a sudden surprise that makes you wonder.
Now that we have mentioned the reason why our ancestors had goosebumps, we can clearly find the way how goosebumps actually help us. It can preserve the residual heat in our bodies. Our ancestors showed such a hair-raising response in the course of action to look virtually bigger. It was a physiological way of alarming an opponent.
It can be witnessed in other animals too. If you see a cat confronting another cat, you will find bending its spine and trying to raise its fur as much as possible. They try to look bigger than the opponent and win the standoff. It is an animalistic reflex that we also experience due to other reasons.
A simple question rises here. Why do I get goosebumps for no reason? Well, it happens to some people when they are emotionally surprised or challenged. The emotions can be surging adrenaline throughout a long period causing the hair to stand. It can also happen for no reason but the phenomenon cannot be explained.
If someone is experiencing a constant feeling of goosebumps, the person might be ill. It is causing the body to react by secreting adrenaline and other excitement hormones. Constant goosebumps can be a symptom and it should be brought under medical attention.
This is all about goosebumps and why it happens to us. You will now realise the reason whenever you experience it happening. Try to focus on the situation and you will surely find the answer. The science is simple and dates back to the prehistoric ages. This physiological phenomenon also proves that we are also animals.
Whether it is a fight or flight response or something emotional, we feel our hairs standing. This is how we experience bumps on our skin. It is not harmful at all and is just a reflex response.