Why do we have goose bumps?

Goosebumps are one of those phenomena that remind us that the separation between humans and other animals is, at bottom, a mirage, a little artificial. Our bodies are constantly going through hundreds of physiological processes that regulate the way we react to our environment, in theory to better adapt to its variations.

Now … in this case,why we have goose bumps and how does this relate to our emotions? Let’s see.

    What is goose bumps?

    A brief definition of what goosebumps are is as follows: it is a condition of the skin in which the body hair is wrinkled, so that being these very fine and short hairs in humans, it seems like tiny “hills” appear on the surface of it. The hairs are sharpBut we usually pay more attention to the part of the skin that forms the basis of it.

    Straightening of the skin, known as piloerection in more formal or scientific contexts, is done by small muscle fibers attached to the base of each of the hairs.

    In addition, this phenomenon does not usually occur in isolation, but is related to changes in states of consciousness and, in particular, emotional states. In this way, goosebumps have a physiological dimension and another psychological dimension linked to emotions. Below, we’ll explore in a bit more detail what we know about each of these two facets of having spiky hair.

      The physiological mechanisms of piloerection

      It is known that the phenomenon of goosebumps, also known as horripilación, is a vestigial reflection that has generally adaptive function in mammals in general, Since this group of animals is characterized by having hair.

      The mechanism by which these bumps appear on the skin for a short period of time is as follows.

      1. Determination of the sympathetic nervous system

      This part of the nervous system is the circuit of nerve cells that intervenes when certain environmental stimuli make us react in a state of activation more intense than normal. For example, this is the type of contexts in which they typically activate attack patterns or escape behavior.

        2. Stimulation of piloerective muscles

        These tiny muscle fibers connect to the sympathetic nervous system and act as a bridge between the sympathetic nervous system and the hair follicle, where they are inserted. When receiving the signal from one of the nerves, these smooth muscle fibers contract by pulling the hair upwards.

        3. Changing the hair shaft

        In the normal state, by default, the body hair is laid out obliquely. In other words, fall to one side, instead of being perpendicular to the skin. When stretched by the piloerector muscle, the path of the hair shaft straightens out, so that instead of almost being attached to the skin, it is sharp. The tension that occurs between the skin that surrounds the base of the hair, on the one hand, and the muscle fibers, on the other hand, causes a bump to appear on the part of the skin through which each head pulls its head.

        Why We Get Goosebumps: Scalable Features

        As we have seen, goosebumps are something related to vestigial reflexes that come to us through a line of ancestors who were not of our species and who probably had much more developed hairs than we do. So the piloerection it could be the difference between having more or less offspring, or between surviving or not. Specifically, a benefit has been established for the following reasons

        1. Helps insulate from the cold

        Pillar erection occurs among other situations when the body is exposed to cold, so that the body hair is more spongy and creates a larger insulating layer between the skin and the environment. This way, body heat is better preserved.

        2. It is associated with situations of danger and reproduction

        Another utility of goosebumps, at least in our ancestors and other mammals characterized by the densest and thickest hairs, is to provide the body with a way to appear taller, which is useful just in case they would hover near. other potentially dangerous animals that might doubt whether or not to attack.

        At the level of social adjustment, furthermore, wrinkling the hair is a quick way to point out to others that there is a danger nearby, as it affects the whole body and, every time you look in that direction , it is easy to see.

        On the other hand, sexual arousal is also capable of producing frizzy hair, which can be associated with the need to communicate interest or to emphasize a certain status. The latter is something that in mammals is closely related to reproduction, especially in the case of males.

        The case of the human being

        In the case of humans, the range of sensations we can have is more varied than that of most mammals, such as our mental processes are greatly enriched from contextual information articulated from abstract thought.

        Therefore, goosebumps can appear in many situations where a very intense emotion takes over us, such as listening to music, being touched by a person, or even listening to a speech or reading a book. In this case, the evolutionary utility loses its relevance: tousled hair does not have a certain function, it simply exists as a result of a process of natural evolution that has led us (in the case of our evolutionary line ).

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