Listening between the notes: personality, listening context, and aesthetic chills in everyday music listening

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily C. Nusbaum (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Paul Silvia

Abstract: Why do people get chills in response to music? Most people report feeling chills — experienced as goose bumps, shivers down the spine, or hair standing on end — at least sometimes when listening to music, but a small minority of people say they've never had this experience. Past work indicates that personality, experience, and engagement in music are partially responsible for individual differences in the experience of chills in response to music, but there is still significant variance in chills that is unexplained. In the present study, experience sampling methods were used to better understand the within-person variability in the experience of chills. Eighty-nine undergraduates completed surveys of Big Five personality traits and music preferences, habits, and experience. For one week, participants responded to multiple daily surveys asking about activities, emotions, and environment, with an emphasis on music listening and chills. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to estimate several models of the variability in chills. Several factors of music listening were examined as potential predictors of chills, including the location, involvement of friends, music choice, structural components of the music, purpose of music listening, and concurrent activities. Of these, music that had special meaning and music that was instrumental had significant main effects on the occurrence of chills, as did taking more music classes and scoring high in facets of neuroticism and openness to experience. In addition, neuroticism and openness facets significantly interacted with contextual aspects of music listening, such as music familiarity, paying close attention to the music, and listening on headphones. Directions for future theorizing are discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Chills, Goose Bumps, Music, Big Five personality traits
Music $x Physiological aspects
Music $x Psychological aspects
Aesthetics $x Psychological aspects
Music, Influence of
Music $x Philosophy and aesthetics

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