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Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

Why Do We Get Goose Bumps?

Why Do We Get Goose Bumps?

Goose bumps, also known as goose flesh or goose pimples, are caused by tiny muscles in the skin. These muscles are around each of the hairs that cover our body. When these little muscles tighten, they form tiny bumps on the skin, causing the hairs to stand up straighter than usual.

We can also feel a tingling sensation all over. Goose bumps usually occur when we are frightened or chilly or experience strong emotions, like pleasure or surprise. They also have a scientific name: kutis ansterina. If you have ever seen a plucked goose, you can guess how goose bumps got their name. Real goose-flesh is covered with little bumps through which the feathers grow.

Getting goose bumps is a reflex, which is an action your body has automatically without you even thinking about it. This particular reflex is known as the pilomotor reflex. Humans aren’t the only mammals that have this reaction.

For example, when porcupines are threatened, their quills raise in a reflex action. Similarly, you may have seen a cat’s or a dog’s hairs stand on end when they sense danger or feel afraid.

When you get cold or experience a strong emotion, your brain sends signals to your muscles that make them tense up. When the muscles in your skin that are attached to hairs do this, they make the hairs stand up and pull your skin up just a bit, creating goose bumps.

The pilomotor reflex in animals often has the effect of making an animal look bigger. This might help to scare away potential enemies that may have caused the fear reaction in the first place.

In humans, though, the reflex has more to do with muscles. As the body reacts to fear, for example, it will often prepare either to flee or to fight the danger. This requires muscles to tense and be ready.

The reflex helps to get the muscles warmed up and ready to move. Goose bumps also help to reduce heat loss, which helps the body warm up when it’s cold.

Content for this question contributed by John Stamoolis, resident of Jeannette, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, USA