[ExI] Sublime messages and Goose Bumps

ben benboc at lineone.net
Sun Sep 23 17:39:32 UTC 2007

Anna Taylor <femmechakra at yahoo.ca> wrote:

>The other day as I was watching a touching story and
>experienced goose bumps.  As I am highly sensitive
>person I wondered how the reaction occurs and why it
>occurs?  As the reaction was not one of fear and
>stress I assumed it had to do with sublime messages
>being sent to the brain.  Curious as always I wanted
>to know how these messages where being sent.  My
>confusion lies in the Google responses.
>It says that the reflect starts in the sympathetic
>nervous system and that it's actions during the stress
>response comprise the fight-or-flight response.  This
>doesn't make much sense to me since there was no
>stress involved in the instant reaction. In the
>automatic nervous system maintenance activities are
>primarily performed without conscious control or
>sensation. I assumed that because there is no cause
>and effect such as fear and stress that my instant
>reaction of a sublime message is being performed
>without conscious control yet there is a sensation.
>Does anybody have any ideas, thoughts or a direction
>that can lead me to understand this better.

I assume you mean 'subliminal', rather than 'sublime' messages!

But i don't think this is necessary. A stimulus doesn't have to be below
your conscious attention to have an effect that seems mysterious.

Goose bumps are caused by the erector pili muscles contracting and
causing any hair you might have to 'puff up'. This is usually in
response to cold or a percieved threat, but i reckon there are other
reasons too.
As you say, the response is under control of the autonomic nervous
system, and is often experienced without knowing the cause.

A few possibilities that i can think of:

You just happened to get a cool draught at the time without noticing it

You percieved a threat (either from the film or from the rest of your
environment), but at an unconscious level.

You have a conditioned response to something featured in the film (or
something that happened in the background) that caused your hackles to
rise (were the goosebumps on the back of your neck, or in some other
region, or just general?). Again, this would almost certainly be

Think about what else gives you goosebumps (apart from a cold wind).
It's an arousal response, so you just need to find the stimuli that
produce it in you.

You might want to try watching the film a few times under different
conditions, see if you get any consistent effects. If you do, it would
probably be interesting to see which parts of it give you goosebumps. If
you can narrow it down to say, one scene or bit of dialogue or
character, you might be able to figure it out.

If you think it's worth spending the time on!

ben z

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