Frisson – ‘aesthetic chills’ as a reaction to music

Written by  //  June 3, 2016  //  TIMES  //  No comments


When I was a graduate student at Eastern Washington University, I wrote my master’s thesis on a phenomenon called frisson (pronounced free-sawh), a French term referring to the aesthetic chills that some people get when experiencing music or other emotionally moving stimuli. The research was originally published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Psychology of Music, with results showing that frisson, which is experience by roughly two-thirds of the population, is most likely to occur for listeners high in a personality trait called Openness to Experience.

In late May 2016, I was asked by an editor of the online science magazine The Conversation (TC) to write a summary piece about my research and about some of the main findings of the study. The original article was titled “Why do only some people get ‘skin orgasms’ from listening to music?” and appeared in the Arts & Culture section of TC. This article quickly rose to  the top of TC’s “Most Read” list.

The article was quickly picked up by Slate, Business Insider, ScienceAlert, The IndependentSalon, and the Associated Press, allowing the article to reach over 500,000 reads in the first four days.




Response to the article was extremely positive, so much so that ScienceAlert published a follow-up article that I wrote in response to many of the reader comments that appeared on facebook and on other sites. A great deal of commentary had been generated, as the original article debuted as the “Most Shared” article on Slate and the “Most Read” article on ScienceAlert’s /humans page.

Having received over 100,000 shares on facebook alone, media requests came in from across the United States and the globe, with articles about the research running in The Houston ChronicleMarie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Elle UK, and New York Magazine.

2341c5_845294b444914d88be50778b29394e46On May 31st 2016, I was pleased to give a 15 minute interview to radio host Jesse Mulligan of Radio New Zealand National, a program that boasts a listener audience of a half-a-million throughout New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific. A segment about the research was also broadcast on the morning edition of Hawaii News Now.

With an additional article running in the local paper, the news of the success of my research reached the faculty and students of Utah State University, where I currently work within the division of Student Affairs and also attend as a doctoral student in Education. Congratulations flooded in from friends and colleagues, many of whom expressed a sense of pride in sharing in the excitement of the noteworthy circumstances.

With the overwhelming response from readers and listeners, many of whom are thankful to have a new term – frisson – for such a familiar experience, I’m delighted to publish this press release and make myself available to those who might be interested in highlighting this interesting research.

tumblr_o3u3zey0r21uov86zo1_400Mitchell Colver
Doctoral Student & Student Transitions Coordinator
Utah State University
0122 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322
Cell: 509-822-8975


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