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27 January 2023 - 27 January 2023

1:00PM - 2:00PM

L50, Psychology building

  • Free

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This talk is part of the Department of Psychology seminar series at Durham University.

Musical chills, a subjective emotional experience accompanied by goosebumps, shivers or tingling sensations, have attracted extensive attention in previous music and emotion research. Chills have been linked to musical structures, psychoacoustic parameters, psychophysiological activity, individual differences in listeners, and different listening contexts. From this, different ideas or theories as to how music elicits chills have been proposed, touching on expectations and surprise, feelings of social separation and loss induced by sad music, and processes of social bonding and empathy. However, a closer look at research on musical chills suggests that the phenomenon is linked to many musical characteristics and features, can be accompanied by differing patterns of psychophysiological activity, is inconsistently associated with individual trait differences of listeners, and can result in diverse subjective feelings and emotions. How does a theory or explanation of musical chills sufficiently accommodate this apparent variability across research?

One possible understanding of musical chills is that they are not a unitary phenomenon, but are instead several distinct types of emotional experience that share common bodily reactions, but vary in the underlying psychological processes involved. Drawing on evolutionary perspectives and empirical evidence regarding chills experiences with music and other contexts, a preliminary framework of distinct musical chills is proposed, highlighting two possible types of musical chills labelled vigilance chills and social chills. This may have notable implications for existing and future musical chills research, and for understanding aesthetic emotional experiences more broadly.