Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 205–217 | Cite as

Exploring the social aspects of goose bumps and their role in awe and envy

  • David R. Schurtz
  • Sarai Blincoe
  • Richard H. SmithEmail author
  • Caitlin A. J. Powell
  • David J. Y. Combs
  • Sung Hee Kim
Original Paper


Both awe and envy are emotions that can result from observing a powerful other, but awe should stabilize social hierarchies while envy should undermine them. Three studies explored how the physiological reaction of goose bumps might help in understanding these distinctive reactions to powerful others, as goose bumps should be associated with awe rather than envy. In Study 1, participants kept a four-week journal and made a detailed entry each time they experienced goose bumps. Goose bumps resulting from the emotion of awe were the second most frequently occurring type after reactions to cold. Consistent with understanding awe as an emotional reaction to powerful or superior others (Keltner and Haidt in Cogn Emot 17:297–314, 2003), many of these experiences had social triggers. In Study 2, accounts of goose bumps resulting from exposure to powerful or superior others contained greater awe than envy. Also, the intensity of goose bumps was positively correlated with awe and negatively correlated with envy. In Study 3, accounts of awe contained more goose bumps than accounts of envy, and goose bumps were positively correlated with awe.


Goose bumps Envy Awe Social emotions 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Schurtz
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sarai Blincoe
    • 1
  • Richard H. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Caitlin A. J. Powell
    • 2
  • David J. Y. Combs
    • 3
  • Sung Hee Kim
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Georgia College and State UniversityMilledgevilleUSA
  3. 3.United States NavyArlingtonUSA
  4. 4.Stevenson UniversityStevensonUSA

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