I’m sure many have wondered why people get goosebumps. There are many things that play into people getting them. You could get them from being very cold, when something dramatic happens that makes you get the chills, but the most common way of getting goosebumps is when you become frightened or suddenly scared out of nowhere. Why do a variety of different events cause the same reaction to your body? According to the Scientific American, the reason for this is because of our animal ancestors that share our DNA.
Having goosebumps was an advantage to our ancestors that were animals, but they don’t do much for us now. Goosebumps resemble the spots of where the plucked feathers from the skin on birds such as geese, turkey or duck. The bumps are caused by little muscles attached to the hairs that contract when signaled to, and then the contracting muscles cause for a protruding of the skin, which forms what is known as a goosebump. The contracting muscles also allow for the hair to stand up as well. Animals that had thick hair, got more insulated, and maintained more heat, during the cold when they would get goosebumps, and their hair rose. Since us humans don’t have a thick layer of hair, having goosebumps doesn’t do the same thing it does for animals, like staying warm and retaining heat, but we still continue to get them from our genes.
In humans, goosebumps are extremely prevalent in fight or flight situations. For instance, say that you are in your bedroom sound asleep and all of a sudden you hear your door fly open and footsteps downstairs, your adrenaline will kick in to improve your alertness. This is directly proportional to our ancestors and other animals. According to Discover Magazine, when you feel threatened, your amygdala sends a signal to your hypothalamus which then sends signals across the body to activate your goosebumps. Our ancestors as well as all sorts of land animals used goosebumps for protection. When an animal is frightened, its hair or feathers spike up to make itself look more intimidating or menacing and to deter its predators. According to Wonderopolis, this reflex is called the pilomotor reflex. Another example of this reflex is once a porcupine feels threatened, its quills spike up. This is due to the muscles contracting around the quill, making them spike up. Many animals around the world have the same reflex as us humans, but they use it for different purposes. These traits carried over to humans, which is why in fight or flight situations, most humans react by having our goosebumps show, just like our ancestors.
It has been known for years that goosebumps on humans are very similar to the goosebumps on animals. For example, we know that animals and humans both get goosebumps when frightened or feel threatened, however nowadays humans don’t have long hairs or feathers attached to the skin to popup once they feel threatened, they just tell us whether we are scared, cold or suddenly frightened.