Poster: Inspiration in a writer predicts the chills in a reader (SPSP 2012)

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Information about Poster: Inspiration in a writer predicts the chills in a reader (SPSP 2012)

Published on February 17, 2014

Author: chrismartin76


Inspiration in a Writer Predicts the Chills in a Reader Chris C. Martin, Laura A. Maruskin, & Todd M. Thrash College of William and Mary Introduction Methods Discussion What are “the chills”? 205 undergraduates participated in this study. The chills are a set of physical sensations—a cold chill, a shudder down the spine, tingling sensations, and goosebumps (piloerection)—that are triggered by a psychologically significant cause. At times of their choosing, each participant read 195 poems. These poems were from a prior study (Thrash, Maruskin, Cassidy, Fryer, & Ryan, 2010), so data about writers’ inspiration, effort, positive affect, and awe while writing were available to us. Within the domain of aesthetic response, the chills has generally been assumed to be a unitary construct. When a more diverse set of elicitors is examined, the chills has been found to dissociate into two varieties of experiences: “goosetingles” and “coldshivers” (Maruskin, Thrash, & Elliot, 2012). Goosetingles involves high levels of awe and surprise, whereas coldshivers involves high levels of fear and disgust. In this study, we examined aesthetic responses and therefore expected the chills to be factorially coherent and to represent a general bodily indicator of emotional impact. What was the main hypothesis? We predicted that the chills would be elicited by poems that were written in an inspired state, a state in which the poet reported being strongly driven to transmit his or her seminal idea for the poem. Why is studying the chills important? Showing that writers’ inspiration predicts readers’ chills is theoretically enriching for the psychology of aesthetics. Although there are many ways to appreciate a poem, the chills is an important criterion variable. The reader who sees and feels a bodily response to a poem is likely to treat this response as compelling and incontrovertible evidence that the poem has aesthetic impact. After reading each poem, participants completed a chills questionnaire (Maruskin et al., 2012) regarding the poem they had just read. This measure has subscales concerning goosebumps, tingling, coldness, and shivers. Data were aggregated across readers (Cronbach’s αs = .99). Results A Principal Components Analysis showed that goosebumps, tingling, coldness, and shivers cohered as a single chills component. We therefore analyzed an overall chills composite. Correlations between motivation variables in the writer and chills in the reader are shown in the first column of Table 1. Results of a simultaneous regression analysis are shown in the second column. Both analyses indicate that inspiration in a writer is a robust predictor of chills in the reader. Other motivations in the writer failed to predict chills in the reader. Predictors of the Chills Factor First-order correlation Multiple regression coefficient r β Inspiration .25** .36*** Awe .04 -.02 Positive Affect .10 -.10 Effort .02 -.08 The reading and enjoyment of a poem is typically considered a conscious activity. Taking a dual process approach, one might construe this activity as primarily involving the conscious system because it involves the deliberate processing of novel phrases within the poem. However, our results indicate that when a poem is inspired, it elicits emotions that affect the unconscious system, prompting an involuntary bodily reaction. Note that inspiration itself has a bodily connection— “inspiration” can refer to the act of breathing in—so our results reveal a resonance between two embodied concepts, inspiration and chills, suggesting that inspiration has contagious physical power. Future research is needed to verify that when participants report they have the chills, they are actually getting goosebumps. Goosebumps can be measured with a boxed camera attached to the skin surface (Benedek, Wilfling, Lukas-Wolfbauer, Katzur, & Kaernbach, 2010). Additional research is also needed to examine the attributes of poems that mediate the effects of writers’ inspiration and the characteristics of readers that moderate them. References Benedek, M., Wilfling, B., Lukas-Wolfbauer, R., Katzur, B., & Kaernbach, C. (2010) Objective and continuous measurement of piloerection. Psychophysiology, 47, 989–993. doi: 10.1111/j.14698986.2010.01003.x Maruskin, L. A., Thrash, T. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2012). The chills as a psychological construct: Content universe, factor structure, affective composition, elicitors, and trait antecedents. Manuscript submitted for publication. Thrash, T. M., Maruskin, L. A., Cassidy, S. E., Fryer, J. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Mediating between the muse and the masses: Inspiration and the actualization of creative ideas. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 469–487. doi: 10.1037/a0017907

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