Goosebumps are most commonly triggered by listening to emotionally moving music, but they can also be triggered by seeing beautiful artwork, watching a particularly touching scene in a movie, or having physical contact with another person.
Your body might go on a physiological high when your music playlist hits all the right notes. Your heart rate picks up. The pupils in your eyes dilate. The temperature of your body rises. Your blood is redirected to your legs. The cerebellum, which controls movement, becomes more active. Dopamine floods your brain, sending a tingling chill down your spine.
Around two-thirds of the population get chills when listening to music.
Music activates an ancient reward system in the brain, causing dopamine to flood the striatum—a portion of the forebrain triggered by addiction, reward, and motivation—according to research. Music appears to have the same effect on our brains as sex, gambling, and tasty snacks.
Surprisingly, dopamine levels can spike several seconds before a song's magical/peak moment. That's because your brain is an excellent listener, continually anticipating what will happen next.
Music can be unpredictable, playing with our minds and keeping our dopamine receptors guessing. That's where the chills may start to creep in. Because the striatum releases dopamine-soaked happiness when you finally hear that long-awaited chord, and you feel the shivers.
The greater the build-up, the greater the chill.