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At university I got her record label logo tattooed on my arm yes, I am that person. When this new song dropped I put in my earphones and, reader, I wept, with joy, with sadness for my younger self.

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And then I danced. The clothes, though, are what keep me going back. Goosebumps, Welcome to Deadcast. When I was growing up, the first books I really got into were the Goosebumps books. This podcast, presented by Daniel and Matthew Scott Montgomery, sets out to revisit all the stories in chronological order starting with Welcome to Dead House, obviously. Topics Culture On my radar. Poetry Guardian first book award Robyn Transgender features. Order by newest oldest recommendations.

Show 25 25 50 All. To this end, we recorded the electromyographic activity over the corrugator supercilii and zygomaticus major Fridlund and Cacioppo, ; Supplementary Figure S1C. Unintentional activations of these antagonistic facial muscles have been shown to indicate negative and positive affect, respectively for a review, see Bradley and Lang, We expected that these measures would put us in a position to address a pressing question in research on peak emotional experiences. On the one hand, chills are highly pleasurable experiences Goldsetin, ; Blood and Zatorre, ; Grewe et al.

On the other hand, there is substantial evidence that sadness is an even more powerful elicitor of chills than joy Panksepp, ; Scherer and Zentner, ; Maruskin et al. Based on these latter findings, one would expect high corrugator activity in episodes of chills. Collecting electromyographic data from both facial muscles allowed us to test these opposing hypotheses against each other. Our stimulus set comprised two subsets of poems—experimenter-selected vs self-selected—which allowed us to compare psychophysiological responses to relatively unfamiliar stimuli with responses to highly familiar stimuli.

The latter have been argued to elicit maximal responses due to their perfect match with individual preferences Blood and Zatorre, ; Rickard, ; Grewe et al. Finally, we implemented a repetition paradigm, i.

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At the end of each study, participants were compensated with 15 EUR. Participants were instructed to choose emotionally powerful poems that might elicit chills or goosebumps. Audios of the selected poems were either taken from existing commercial CD recordings or recorded in a professional studio with professional performers. We used professional recitations of poems rather than self-reading because precise timing is at high risk if participants can read passages a second time. However, in order to consolidate our findings, we ran a follow-up self-reading study with a new sample of participants reported in Supplementary Material.

For acquisition of electrodermal activity, heart rate and facial electromyographic activity Supplementary Figure S1 A, C , a channel bioamplifier, Nexus, including the recording software Biotrace Mind Media B. Continuous objective measurement of piloerection was carried out by means of a goosecam constructed according to Benedek et al. The video data were analyzed offline using the Matlab based analysis software Gooselab V1. During the stimulus presentation, participants were asked to monitor their bodily experiences and to push a button with their dominant hand when they experienced a chill for the entire length of the chill.

The analysis aimed to test the differences of the physiological correlates of 1 subjective chills, piloerection periods and episodes without chills or piloerection control time , 2 the effects of self- vs experimenter-selected stimuli and 3 the effects of the first vs the second presentation of the stimuli. The onset and offset times of the button presses indicating chills periods and of the video-documented piloerection incidents defined the chill and piloerection periods, respectively; the remaining time of the poem presentation was regarded as control time.

To account for the nested structure of the data, linear mixed-effect models with random intercepts for participants were tested. Additionally, the video recordings for 11 participants To ensure that the elicitation of chills by poetry was not limited to a special sample, we validated and extended our findings by conducting a behavioral follow-up study with a new sample of 30 participants reported in the Supplementary Material.

The results show that poetry is able to trigger not only mild affective responses but also the most intense ones. Importantly, and in disagreement with widely held assumptions Blood and Zatorre, ; Rickard, ; Grewe et al. Ratings provided by our participants confirmed a low level of familiarity with the experimenter-selected subset: Using mixed-effect analyses of variance, we compared the physiological correlates of chills as indicated by button presses with those of goosebumps as captured by the goosecam and those of the exposure time spans when neither chills nor goosebumps were observed control time Figure 1 , Supplementary Table S1A.

Overall, both chills and goosebumps were associated with higher phasic electrodermal activity pEDA than control time responses Figure 1A. This accords with virtually all prior studies on chills and piloerection in response to music and film and confirms the notion that these phenomena indicate states of high emotional and physiological arousal Rickard, ; Grewe et al. However, while most studies use the concepts of chills and goosebumps interchangeably, we found the two responses to differ significantly in the context of stimulus repetition.

Whereas the pEDA during chills tended to habituate considerably in response to repetition for both subsets of poems, the pEDA during piloerection showed a reverse pattern, i. Physiological correlates of chills, piloerection, and control time. Standardized amplitudes of A phasic electrodermal activity, B electromyographic corrugator activity, C heart rate and D electromyographic zygomaticus activity for self-selected self and experimenter-selected exp poems, for the first and second exposure 1,2.

Note that whereas activity in chill phases tended to habituate for the second exposure, in piloerection phases it showed a sensitization effect. Bars with the same letter are not significantly different from each other at the 0. Solid downward arrows indicate significant habituation effects, solid upward arrows significant sensitization effects the dashed upward arrow indicates a sensitization effect that reaches significance at the 0. Error bars indicate standard errors as estimated in a multilevel mixed-effect model. Please note that for readability, we use a smaller scaling in C and D than in A and B.

Interestingly, we found remarkably similar effects of repeated exposure for the other domains, particularly for the corrugator activity Figure 1B , which is predominantly associated with negative emotions like sadness.


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At same time, the results for the zygomatic activity, indicating positive affect, turned out to have much smaller effects and less consistency as compared to pEDA and corrugator activity: Similarly, cardiovascular responses showed smaller and less consistent effects Figure 1C. The greater prominence of the corrugator during chills and goosebumps as compared to zygomatic activity is in line with earlier reports Panksepp, ; Scherer and Zentner, ; Maruskin et al. At the same time, chills elicited by music have been demonstrated to recruit deep-seated, phylogenetically ancient core structures of the reward circuitry Blood and Zatorre, ; Salimpoor et al.

At first glance, this might seem almost paradoxical. Is it possible for poetry-elicited chills to have access to the same deep-seated reward structures found for music-elicited chills, even though the facial muscle data suggest a strong role of negative affect? We checked this in a subsequent neuroimaging study that relied on the same participants and stimuli as the first study. Before turning to the neuroimaging study, however, we will address the much-debated issue of temporal patterning in peak emotional moments. It has frequently been claimed by different research groups that the build-up of emotional arousal and the accompanying pleasant anticipation right before the peak constitute the underlying tension—release mechanism for chills Grewe et al.

Collecting skin conductance data placed us in a position to investigate how emotional arousal is built up and released during the course of peak emotional experiences. To do this, we computed an event-related grand average 1 for the skin conductance signals of all single chill periods obtained in our study. Based on results reported in the literature Rickard, ; Grewe et al.

Critically, we were also interested in the time window before the button was pressed, and hence the anticipatory period. As expected, we observed a prominent increase arising shortly after the button press. Interestingly, we found an additional, yet smaller increase starting 4. This response pattern is markedly different from a slow rising trend that reaches its maximum during the chill period.

Note that before the button press, a prechill deflection was observed. When contrasted with the chill, the prechill was associated with increased activity in the hedonic hotspot nucleus accumbens Figure 3. The distinction between an anticipatory and a consummatory period, i. Over the last years, neuroscientific endeavors have largely focused on sketching precise temporal models that identify functional contributions of specific brain areas to specific subprocesses.

Using chill-inducing pieces of music, Salimpoor et al. These divergent results of prior research suggest two diverging hypotheses regarding the NAcc activity in responses to poetry. Thus, we pursued a twofold agenda in our neuroscientific study: Second, by contrasting prechill periods with chill periods, we wanted to check on which side of the divergent evidence for the NAcc involvement anticipation vs attainment poetic language would lie. For the fMRI study, two experimenter-selected poems were replaced in order to test the effects of stimuli that were presented for the very first time compared to the effects of the other three experimenter-selected poems.

The familiarity ratings for the two new poems were on average 0. Since no subset-specific activations could be found in a pre-analysis, all stimuli were collapsed into one category for the main fMRI analysis. As in the psychophysiological session, participants were asked to push a button for the entire duration of experiencing a chill, using their right index finger. Additionally, participants were asked to indicate neutral periods in which they experienced no emotional arousal using a second button and their right middle finger.

These studies reported increased activity in reward-related structures——including the NAcc in the ventral striatum, right dorsal caudate nucleus, anterior insula a-Ins , putamen, mediodorsal thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex ACC and orbitofrontal cortex OFC ——and also in the cerebellum and the supplementary motor area SMA. Statistical analysis was performed using a general linear model GLM implemented in SMP8 with the chill periods, neutral periods and prechill periods as primary regressors of interest.

Two contrasts of interest statistical parametric maps computed across the whole brain were calculated first at the individual level and afterwards as a t -test against zero at the group level: P -values smaller than 0. Whole-brain statistical parametric maps for two contrasts: Chill-specific activations recruit the mesolimbic circuitry of primary reward processing caudate nucleus, putamen and mediodorsal thalamus.

A contrast of the prechill reward anticipation with the chill reward attainment shows significant bilateral activations during the anticipation in the ventral striatum, including the nucleus accumbens, thus emphasizing its role in preparing the aesthetic peak. A comparison of these results with the neural correlates of music-elicited chills Blood and Zatorre, ; Salimpoor et al. Second, in the reward-related brain regions that overlap in responses to music and poetry, activation peaks for poetry-evoked chills were shifted to the posterior compared to those for music-evoked chills.

Specifically, for music-evoked chills, increased activity was found in the anterior cingulate, anterior insula and head of the caudate; in contrast, poetry-evoked chills recruited the mid cingulate, mid insula and body and tail of the caudate Figure 3. The activations we report broadly accord with the literature: Irrespective of the substantial activation overlap of music- and poetry-elicited chills, we did not find any increased activity in the ventral striatum, specifically, in the NAcc.

However, as outlined above, the NAcc could have been active shortly before the chill button was pressed, and hence during reward expectation rather than reward attainment.

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Thus, the temporal trajectory of poetry-elicited chills stands in marked contrast to that observed for music-evoked chills, while largely converging with the outcomes of the neuroimaging studies on pleasure in different other modalities, such as taste, olfaction, visually perceived attractiveness and monetary reward. Moreover, the activation pattern for the dorsal caudate nucleus also did not follow the temporal trajectory of music-evoked chills, that is, there was no increased activity during the prechills, but a strong recruitment during the chills as compared to neutral periods Figure 3A.

After the button press, the NAcc activity returns to baseline again. This result pattern suggests that the NAcc activation is critical for paving the way for the peak emotional experiences that are accompanied by chills. The underlying processes are likely to be driven by expectations that are aroused by specific features of poetic language.

Time course plots of neural activity in both NAcc clusters. Error bars indicate the standard error of the mean. After verifying that poetic language can have a very strong emotional effect on the bodies and brains of listeners, we moved on to investigating stimulus features that contribute to these remarkable outcomes. The emotional power of poetry is widely believed to be promoted, or enhanced, through its formal structural composition Jacobs, ; Obermeier et al. This implies that emotional peaks should not be randomly distributed across a poem but should rather converge with particularly salient points of the formal composition.

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Yet which are these preeminent points? A long-standing hypothesis dating back to classical rhetoric suggests that the closure positions are particularly salient and thus may represent peak points in the emotional trajectory of texts Lausberg, Adopted for the present context, this cadence theory would therefore predict that chills should preeminently occur at closing positions within a poem, e. To investigate this hypothesis, we calculated which words participants were hearing when experiencing a chill.

Then we computed, for each word of the five experimenter-selected poems, how many chills it triggered across all participants in the first study. The results reveal a remarkably consistent pattern, as illustrated in a heat map in Figure 5A: Note also that, by its very definition, the heat map implies a convergence of chill responses across participants, suggesting that these effects were driven by particular features of the stimulus rather than idiosyncratic preferences on the part of the listener. Chill distributions reveal closure effects.

A Heat map of chills for one experimenter-selected poem with four stanzas the other four poems are given in SM. Each row represents a line in the poem, each square represents a word. The coloring of the squares corresponds to the number of chills a word elicited across all participants in the first study. Note that for both subsets, chills tend to cluster at the end of entire poems, single stanzas, and individual lines.

To test these closure effects in a formal way, we conducted a multilevel Poisson regression analysis over all five poems with word positions at Level 1 and the poems at Level 2. We considered three kinds of word position within the entire poem, within a stanza and within a line. To ensure that these closure effects were not limited to the experimenter-selected subset of poems, we conducted a second analysis for all 97 self-selected poems a multi-level logistic regression with relative word positions at Level 1 and different poems as well as participants at Level 2.

The existing literature suggests that social cognition and social emotions are particularly powerful in eliciting chills Panksepp, ; Konecni et al. Based on these assumptions, we hypothesized that passages high in social cognition and emotions should also be a predictor for the occurrence of chills at particular points in poems.

To operationalize this notion as a testable hypothesis, we predicted that chills would more likely occur during text passages that consist of speech acts addressing other present or absent persons e. Such passages are markedly different from prototypical narrative or descriptive passages in that all of what they say has a pronounced focus on a real or imagined interlocutor.

Hence these passages emphasize a communicative function that is characteristic of direct personal communication and social interaction. In order to exclude the possibility that the influence of social address could be explained entirely by the word positions i. Poetic language can be found in virtually all cultures around the world and throughout recorded history. However, to date, we know very little about how poetic language effects the human brain and body.

The present series of experiments sheds light on the highly pleasurable emotional effects of poetry. Providing quantitative data from psychophysiology, neuroimaging and behavior, we demonstrate that poetry is capable of inducing peak emotional experiences, including subjectively reported chills and objectively measured goosebumps.

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These very intense responses have repeatedly been argued to involve high personal relevance Goldstein, ; Panksepp, ; Maruskin et al. The heightened activity during chills in the mid insula corroborates the idea of a strongly felt bodily component, because this region plays a key role in interoceptive awareness and neural representations of inner body states Craig, As a byproduct of this internal signaling function, chills and goosebumps enhance the memorability of the eliciting stimulus.

This fits well with the fact that participants easily remember the exact passages of chill-eliciting poems as shown in this study , musical pieces Panksepp, ; Blood and Zatorre, ; Salimpoor et al. The latter sample experienced fewer chills than the poetry enthusiasts Furthermore, we found evidence that experiences of chills and goosebumps respond in opposite ways to repeated exposure habituation vs sensitization. This might be the result of evolutionary processes. Notably, chills and piloerection differ mainly regarding their visibility to conspecifics.

Human erection of body hair is a relic of a communication device still used by our furred primate and non-primate ancestors in situations of threat and courtship to make the body appear larger and thereby more impressive French and Snowdon, ; Nishida, A weakening of this important social signal during the course of repetitive displays might have been disadvantageous for our ancestors.

In contrast, chills are a private, subjective response, invisible to others. Therefore, evolution would not have disfavored their erosion with repetition in a similar way. On top of demonstrating the emotional power of poetic language, our skin conductance data also provide insight into the temporal organization of peak emotional experiences.


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Here we found an independent component, a prechill, rising and descending shortly before the peak the chill occurs. We interpret this phenomenon as an anticipation of the climax that is prepared for or foreshadowed by immediately preceding cues. Importantly, anticipation is built up in poetic language not only by the semantic content, but also by phonological and structural features such as rhyme and meter, so that even when an individual listens to a poem for a first time, the formal composition will provide cues, almost in a countdown-like manner, as to when the line will end, when the stanza will end, and, in the case of strongly formalized poems such as sonnets or haikus, even when the entire poem will end.

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Another important finding of the physiological study was the prominence of the corrugator activity, an indicator of negative affect, in moments of chills. In fact, the result pattern for this facial muscle mimicked almost perfectly the pattern of the electrodermal activity Figure 1A and B , which is a classic indicator of emotional arousal and which has provided the most consistent results throughout several physiological studies on chills in response to music and films Blood and Zatorre, ; Rickard, ; Grewe et al.

At the same time, the positive affect-related zygomaticus Figure 1D showed much smaller and less consistent effects Supplementary Table S1B. Strong corrugator activity in moments of art reception that are perceived as highly rewarding is an intriguing finding. In the fMRI study, we confirmed the involvement of the neural basic reward circuitry for poetry-elicited chills, including the caudate nucleus, putamen, mediodorsal thalamus, nucleus accumbens, and anterior insula with the latter two being restricted to the periods of prechills.

Recruitment of these regions by both the biological reinforcers, which directly promote survival of the individual and the species, and by abstract stimuli has classically been suggested to explain the strong human motivation to seek out aesthetic experiences Koelsch, ; Zatorre and Salimpoor, The prominence of corrugator activity, indicating negative affect, appears to be contradictory to these lines of thinking. One of the basic reasons of why we enjoy negative emotions in contexts of art reception is that they are particularly powerful in inducing intense involvement, sustaining focused attention and granting high memorability.

Importantly, all these effects occur against a background of the personal safety of the perceiver. That is, the perceiver is always aware of the distinction between his or her own and the fictional reality as well as of the possibility to withdraw from the aesthetic stimulus at any time by leaving the theater, switching the radio channel, etc. The neural correlates of poetry-elicited chills were found to differ from that of music-elicited chills with regard to the exact locations of heightened activity within the reward-related brain regions: This suggests a different quality of chills elicited by poetry compared to music-evoked chills.

Given some fundamental differences between these domains, this finding is not surprising. After all, only language-specific semantic content enables listeners to activate precise scenario visualizations, empathic reactions towards protagonists and complex social reasoning. Interestingly, these notions are in line with the activations of two regions that we observed in this study and that were not reported for music-elicited chills: Moreover, the prominence of a social dimension in poetry as discussed later is corroborated by the activations in another region not reported for music: Being part of the temporo-parietal junction, the SMG is known to be crucially engaged in social cognition and the theory of mind Overwalle, Given the fact that poems can be restructured and modified without altering the semantic content cf.

This outcome effectively rules out NAcc involvement in experiencing the peak pleasure itself and exclusively supports a role of NAcc in paving the way for the peak to occur. Importantly, our skin conductance data replicate the well-established fact that maximal emotional arousal and pleasure are experienced during the actual chill, both in comparison to other parts of the stimulus control condition in Figure 1 and locally, in comparison to the preceding prechill Figure 2.

The NAcc activity is therefore specifically related to the build-up process of the chill and not to the chill experience itself. Notably, the specific function of the NAcc or even its subdivisions in the process of reward has not yet been conclusively identified. A large body of literature from human and animal research suggests that the functioning of the NAcc is closely related to making predictions and testing hypotheses about rewarding events. In other words, if the pending stimulus is promising in terms of its hedonic quality, the NAcc activity will reflect this sweet anticipation and increase proportionally to the expected value Abler et al.

On the other hand, if the rewarding quality of a received stimulus is more valuable than expected, the NAcc will also react to these pleasant surprises, which are known in predictive coding theories as positive prediction errors Schultz, ; Berns et al. It is therefore likely that we cannot assign the role of the NAcc either to the anticipation or to the attainment of reward per se. Rather, it appears to serve a broader function of learning statistical regularities of rewarding environmental stimuli and sometimes even aversive ones; Jensen et al. Beyond elucidating the physiology and the neural underpinnings of intense emotional responses to poetry, our studies sought to unveil some of the mechanisms of poetic language that drive these responses.

We did this by making use of the local information about where, in a poem, chills occur. We theorized, based on cadence theories Lausberg, , that in order to exert a maximal emotional effect, chills would be more likely to occur and accumulate at closing positions within the poems.


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Using visualization techniques and formal statistical approaches, we confirmed these assumptions for both subsets of poems and for the subsequent reading experiment. The places at which the greatest number of predictions can be met or violated are final or closing positions at different levels of a poem——a line, a stanza or the entire poem——making these positions particularly salient for the perceiver.