The Power of Frisson

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Ever been listening to a song that you really feel a connection with and a certain part gives you a tingling sensation, sometimes goosebumps? That is Frisson.

The fact that a piece of media like Music, Film, Video Games & Art can cause a biological reaction like this is really perplexes me. What interests me more, is that what causes Frisson is different for all of us. I can pick a song from my Library which I know will make the experience happen to me, but it’s likely that it won’t have the same effect on you. I mean just try it for yourself:

If you’re not an Interpol fan then I doubt the song did much for you, even though you might have liked the song. If you do like Interpol then you sir, have impeccable taste.

The feeling generally seems to manifest itself due to an emotional switch that needs to be turned on via an outside stimuli e.g. Music or other media. I’m going to talk about Frisson in regards to music as in my experience this is how I have come across it myself.

It can be the lyrics of a song that seem to remind you of a vivid memory you have, which brings with it a flood of emotion(s). These can be good or bad memories, I’ve found that certain songs and artists correlate with bringing up good and bad memories & emotions. Often simple tunes without any lyrics can cause Frisson also, it’s all about what triggers our own Memories & Emotions, and since everybody’s Memories are different, it only makes sense that different stimuli affect different people!

So why does it happen?

Well there isn’t a lot to go on as far as I could find, but I have an idea of why/how Frisson takes place. When the media experienced by the individual excites the connections in the individual’s  brain by bringing up memories or thoughts, Dopamine is released. This is a chemical that excites the nervous system and brings about a good feeling to the individual, very similar to the effects of Serotonin. Dopamine is released in the brain during things like sexual intercourse and exercise so it’s often named as the “feel-good” chemical. Anyhow, the excitement of the nervous system from the Dopamine causes goosebumps in our skin and a tingle throughout our body as the excited shock goes through our nerves. And this is where we get the Frisson feeling from hard-hitting and emotional media.

In a way, this is similar to how Cocaine works. Cocaine causes an excitement of the nervous system through Dopamine levels to give a good feeling, but who needs that when you have brilliant music?

So now that you know what Frisson is and how it works, I’m sure you can think of what songs or other media that bring about the effect in yourself!

Please do feel free to comment and link what gets your Frisson going below and I’ll be sure to have a look and get back to you!


– Jamie