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People Who Have Voluntary Control of Goosebumps

Of a sudden, there’s goosebump-raising research about people who can manage, using only mental means, to bring about their own goosebumps.

It’s described in the study “The Voluntary Control of Piloerection,” James A.J. Heathers [pictured here], Kirill Fayn, Paul J. Silvi, Niko Tiliopoulos, and Matthew S. Goodwin, PeerJ, March 1, 2018.

The authors, at Northeastern University, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the University of Sydney, report:

Autonomic systems in the human body are named for their operation outside of conscious control. One rare exception is voluntarily generated piloerection (VGP) – the conscious ability to cause goosebumps – whose physiological study in scientific history is confined to three single-individual case studies. Almost nothing is known about the physiological nature and emotional correlates of this ability. The current manuscript investigates the physiological, personality, and emotional phenomenology of a sample of thirty two individuals capable of VGP…. These preliminary findings suggest that this rare and unusual physiological ability has strong emotional and personality correlates….

The links between piloerection, the experience of chills, and existing personality correlates tentatively imply that individuals with voluntary control over these symptoms tend to experience states of being moved, touched, and/or awed more frequently…

BONUS: Lead author Heathers has done extensive research into the reliability and reality of research studies published by 2007 Ig Nobel Nutrition Prize winner Brian Wansink.

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