On the etiology of aesthetic chills: a behavioral genetic study

Giacomo Bignardi, Rebecca Chamberlain, Sofieke T. Kevenaar, Zenab Tamimy, Dorret I. Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aesthetic chills, broadly defined as a somatic marker of peak emotional-hedonic responses, are experienced by individuals across a variety of human cultures. Yet individuals vary widely in the propensity of feeling them. These individual differences have been studied in relation to demographics, personality, and neurobiological and physiological factors, but no study to date has explored the genetic etiological sources of variation. To partition genetic and environmental sources of variation in the propensity of feeling aesthetic chills, we fitted a biometrical genetic model to data from 14,127 twins (from 8995 pairs), collected by the Netherlands Twin Register. Both genetic and unique environmental factors accounted for variance in aesthetic chills, with heritability estimated at 0.36 ([0.33, 0.39] 95% CI). We found females more prone than males to report feeling aesthetic chills. However, a test for genotype x sex interaction did not show evidence that heritability differs between sexes. We thus show that the propensity of feeling aesthetic chills is not shaped by nurture alone, but it also reflects underlying genetic propensities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3247
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022


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