Archive for April 6th, 2015

April 6, 2015

Goose Bumps

pilomotor reflex by boots


Goose bumps (‘cutis anserina,’ also called ‘goose pimples’ or ‘goose flesh’) are bumps that develop on human skin at the base of body hairs in response to cold. They can also occur involuntarily as the result of strong emotions such as fear, nostalgia, pleasure, euphoria, awe, admiration, or sexual arousal. The same effect is manifested in the root word ‘horror’ in English, which is derived from Latin ‘horrere,’ which means ‘to bristle,’ and ‘be horrified,’ because of the accompanying hair reaction.

The reflex of producing goose bumps is known as ‘arasing,’ ‘piloerection,’ or the ‘pilomotor reflex.’ It occurs in many mammals besides humans; a prominent example is porcupines, which raise their quills when threatened, or sea otters when they encounter sharks or other predators. Small muscles at the follicles raise the body’s hair to make the animal appear larger and more imposing when facing predators. The formation of goose bumps in humans under stress is considered by some to be a vestigial reflex. In furred animals, the cold response erects hairs to trap air, creating a layer of insulation.

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