Research report 2016 - Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Being moved, goosebumps and the power of poetic language
Menninghaus, Winfried; Wassiliwizky, Eugen
Sprache und Literatur
SummaryEver since antiquity, it is a declared goal of the arts to emotionally move its audience (lat. movere). The studies reported here offer a scientific definition of feelings of being moved and prove its role in aesthetic evaluation. Confirming a "mixed" affective nature of these feelings, goosebumps – which accompany peak states of being moved – simultaneously activate the primary reward network and high levels of negative affect as measured by facial electromyography (EMG). Moreover, the distribution of goosebumps episodes across the trajectory of poems reveals secrets of artistic composition.