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Goosebumps: are you scared yet?

Photo cred: pixabay via physicsgirl

Photo cred: pixabay via physicsgirl

Noah Streeter, News Section Editor

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Goosebumps: the feeling you commonly get while watching something dramatic. Whether the scene is intense and going 90 miles per hour, or merely just looking at something that makes you drop your jaw, you can get these little bumps. With Halloween out of the way you probably have already experienced them many times, but why do they occur?

Darkness, creepy crawly creatures, and death are all things we fear, and for good reason too. Many of these things can harm or kill you, and that prompts a response, similar to Spiderman, when your body senses danger it warns you. You may not be able to sense unseeable things like Spiderman, but you can still get goosebumps when you are aware of danger. This reaction is the precursor to the fight or flight response and is triggered by the amygdala, a small part of the brain located medially in the posterior region.

The amygdala is responsible for all of the effects of the fight or flight response. It triggers hormones to be released to increase awareness and survivability in life or death situations. The origins of this tiny almond sized part of the brain dates back to more primitive times when our ancestors needed to worry more about what was going to kill them next.

According to Professor Joanne Cantor in a Science Focus article,“It evolved so that when we came across something threatening, regardless of whether it’s real or not, it reacts. Your memory in the hippocampus then makes an association to what you felt when you first encountered that event.”

Since the amygdala is hardwired into our brains as a subconscious action many times we cannot control our instincts to flinch or scream. Even with things our mind knows are fake such as horror movies the frontal cortex cannot override the instincts that have kept humans alive since the beginning of their existence. Senior student Jacob McCredie said, “It’s interesting to see how our natural instincts still react even though in our society we don’t use them or need them.”

Goosebumps are triggered by the amygdala, but the actual movement of your hair is caused by tiny muscles in your skin called arrector pili. The connection between emotions and goosebumps lies between the arrector pili and the sympathetic nervous system. Craig Parker, biology and anatomy/physiology teacher, stated, “The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response. For animals that still have a lot of hair, the contraction of the arrector pili cause their hair to stand on end, making them appear larger than they really are – potentially frightening off whatever is threatening them. This would also have been true for our evolutionary ancestors.

So the next time you are with friends or family at a haunted house or scary movie and get jumpscared, just remember you’re just following your instincts.

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Goosebumps: are you scared yet?