Aesthetic chills cause an emotional drift in valence and arousal

Jain A, Schoeller F, Horowitz A, Hu X, Yan G, Salomon R and Maes P (2023) Aesthetic chills cause an emotional drift in valence and arousal. Front. Neurosci. 16:1013117. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.1013117


Aesthetic chills are an embodied peak emotional experience induced by stimuli such as music, films, and speeches and characterized by dopaminergic release. The emotional consequences of chills in terms of valence and arousal are still debated and the existing empirical data is conflicting. In this study, we tested the effects of ChillsDB, an open-source repository of chills-inducing stimuli, on the emotional ratings of 600+ participants. We found that participants experiencing chills reported significantly more positive valence and greater arousal during the experience, compared to participants who did not experience chills. This suggests that the embodied experience of chills may influence one’s perception and affective evaluation of the context, in favor of theoretical models emphasizing the role of interoceptive signals such as chills in the process of perception and decision-making. We also found an interesting pattern in the valence ratings of participants, which tended to harmonize toward a similar mean after the experiment, though initially disparately distributed. We discuss the significance of these results for the diagnosis and treatment of dopaminergic disorders such as Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, and depression.

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