Food & Paper: Two Types of Musical Chills: Theories of Vigilance and Social Bonding (Bannister)

PhD student Scott Bannister from Durham University (UK) will have a talk on Two Types of Musical Chills: Theories of Vigilance and Social Bonding.

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Research on musical chills often emphasises the relationships between the response and structural aspects of the music, such as crescendos, solo voices or instruments, and new or unprepared harmonies. However, due to a sparsity of causal investigations into musical chills, there currently exists no explanation or theory that sufficiently encapsulates the variety of correlations reported; furthermore, given the variation in how listeners report the affective and physical characteristics of chills, it is unclear as to whether chills are a unified marker of peak pleasure and arousal, or a collection of distinct experiences linked to different underlying psychological mechanisms. 


This talk aims to establish a novel approach to understanding musical chills, suggesting that two theories, labelled Vigilance and Social Bonding, can together accommodate the majority of existing research on the phenomenon. These theories predict two types of chills: Vigilance and Social Chills, which are proposed to be distinguishable at the level of stimulus and stimulus features, subjective feeling, psychophysiological activity, and individual differences. This possibility has substantial implications for research in the area, highlighting an immediate need to better operationalise the chills phenomenon across studies. These perspectives will be discussed in the context of previous and ongoing research into the chills phenomenon, and in relation to recent preliminary evidence for two types of chills with music.


References related to presentation:

Bannister, S. (in press). Distinct varieties of aesthetic chills in response to multimedia. PLoS ONE. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224974

Bannister, S. (2018). A survey into the experience of musically-induced chills: Emotions, situations and music. Psychology of Music [Online First Publication]. Doi: 10.1177/0305735618798024

Bannister, S., and Eerola, T. (2018). Suppressing the chills: Effects of musical manipulation on the chills response. Frontiers in Psychology, 9: 2046. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02046.



Mr Scott Bannister is a PhD student at Durham University, who recently submitted his thesis on the topic of musical chills, supervised by Prof. Tuomas Eerola and Prof. Nick Collins. He has a background in music technology (B.A, Music Technology) and music psychology (M.A, Applied psychology of Music). His work mainly focusses on causally manipulating strong emotional experiences with music to test theories and explanations regarding existing correlative work. He has published in several international journals, such as Psychology of Music, Frontiers in Psychology, and Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, and his current focus is on exploring how music is perceived or processed as a social ‘other’ by some listeners, and how these experiences are linked to intense emotions such as being moved.

Published Nov. 11, 2019 2:56 PM - Last modified Apr. 20, 2020 2:02 PM