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Vigilance and social chills with music: Evidence for two types of musical chills

Bannister, Scott and Eerola, Tuomas (2021) 'Vigilance and social chills with music: Evidence for two types of musical chills.', Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts .


It is unclear how music elicits chills (emotional experiences accompanied by goosebumps, shivers, and tingling sensations), and what psychological mechanisms underlie the response. Crucially, current explanations of chills struggle to encapsulate the variability of results linking the experience to musical features, psychophysiological activity, and individual differences, suggesting there may be distinct types of musical chills elicited through different underlying mechanisms. This study aimed to distinguish two types of musical chills: vigilance chills, linked to awe, expectancy, and auditory looming; and social chills, linked to being moved, empathy, and social bonding. Participants listened to four music excerpts containing moments of contrast (sudden dynamic changes). Two excerpts were paired with extramusical information provided before listening, with the other two accompanied by visual animations; the information and animations emphasized either vigilance (i.e., musical structure) or social (i.e., bittersweet moving narrative) aspects, forming vigilance and social conditions for each stimulus. Participants reported chills via button presses, rated experiences of awe and being moved, and had skin conductance and temperature data collected; individual differences in cognitive processing style (empathizing and systemizing) were also explored. Results show that vigilance conditions elicited higher ratings of awe, and social conditions elicited higher ratings of being moved. Chills during experiences of awe (vigilance chills) were accompanied by increased skin conductance and decreased skin temperature compared to chills during experiences of being moved (social chills). Cognitive processing styles were unrelated to listener experiences. Findings are discussed in terms of chills theories, reinterpreting previous research, and broader music and emotion frameworks. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© American Psychological Association, 2021. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at:
Date accepted:25 August 2021
Date deposited:04 October 2021
Date of first online publication:01 October 2021
Date first made open access:04 October 2021

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