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
Ever 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.

For the full text, see the German version.

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