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, 14 (11), e0224974

Distinct Varieties of Aesthetic Chills in Response to Multimedia


Distinct Varieties of Aesthetic Chills in Response to Multimedia

Scott Bannister. PLoS One.


The experience of aesthetic chills, often defined as a subjective response accompanied by goosebumps, shivers and tingling sensations, is a phenomenon often utilized to indicate moments of peak pleasure and emotional arousal in psychological research. However, little is currently understood about how to conceptualize the experience, particularly in terms of whether chills are general markers of intense pleasure and emotion, or instead a collection of distinct phenomenological experiences. To address this, a web-study was designed using images, videos, music videos, texts and music excerpts (from both an online forum dedicated to chills-eliciting stimuli and previous musical chills study), to explore variations across chills experience in terms of bodily and emotional responses reported. Results suggest that across participants (N = 179), three distinct chills categories could be identified: warm chills (chills co-occurring with smiling, warmth, feeling relaxed, stimulated and happy), cold chills (chills co-occurring with frowning, cold, sadness and anger), and moving chills (chills co-occurring with tears, feeling a lump in the throat, emotional intensity, and feelings of affection, tenderness and being moved). Warm chills were linked to stimuli expressing social communion and love; cold chills were elicited by stimuli portraying entities in distress, and support from one to another; moving chills were elicited by most stimuli, but their incidence were also predicted by ratings of trait empathy. Findings are discussed in terms of being moved, the importance of differing induction mechanisms such as shared experience and empathic concern, and the implications of distinct chills categories for both individual differences and inconsistencies in the existing aesthetic chills literature.

Conflict of interest statement

The author has declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Visualization of the Multiple Correspondence Analysis.
Shapes indicate physical (triangle) and emotional (circle) responses, and colours indicate chills categories developed through MCA and polyserial correlations (red = warm chills, blue = cold chills, purple = moving chills).
Fig 2
Fig 2. Full solution dendrogram from the agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis.
Red and blue branch colours indicate the two cluster solution representing positive and negative valence; smaller bar graphs indicate raw mean ratings for warm (red), cold (blue) and moving (purple) chills for each individual stimulus.

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Grant support

This research was funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council ( doctoral studentship awarded to SB (Grant number AH/L503927/1), through the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership ( The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.