09. February 2017

Tears Falling on Goosebumps

 “I was moved to tears.“ “I had shivers-down-the-spine.” Both physiological responses are associated with intense aesthetic experiences and with states of being emotionally moved. But is it possible to shed tears and have goosebumps at a time? Or are there differentially distributed over time? To get a grip on this problem, we collected data on both tears and goosebumps, the latter via a video-recording device. We also acquired several physiological signals, such as skin conductance, heart rate, and respiration frequency. This allowed us to reveal the biological signature of these emotional reactions and to compare them with one another. As elicitors of tears and goosebumps, we used over 130 moving film clips that were self-selected by the participants. This procedure guarantees that the critical reaction (tears and goosebumps) is reliably elicited during the experiment. Furthermore, it provides us with the possibility to identify parameters of film making that are conducive to eliciting chills and moving us to tears.

Original publication (open access):

Wassiliwizky, E., Jacobsen, T., Heinrich, J., Schneiderbauer, M., & Menninghaus, W. (2017). Tears falling on goosebumps: Co-occurrence of emotional lacrimation and emotional piloerection indicates a psychophysiological climax in emotional arousal. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 41. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00041


Eugen Wassiliwizky
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt am Main 
+49 69 8300479-114

Dr. Anna Husemann
Research Coordination/PR
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt am Main
+49 69 8300479-650