Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

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September 30, 2020 12 min
It’s actually really strange that scratching your head is a widely understood sign that you’re puzzling over something. No one’s exactly sure why we do that, so interesting theories abound! Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Episode Transcription

The text below is machine transcribed.

Hey and welcome to the short stuff, I'm Josh, there's Chuck Jerry's out there. Oh I'm sorry N Daves here in spirit too, so, oh, yes, short Stuff You Should Know the short stuff edition. They bruise no Dave Custan the editor of short stuff. The priducer.

Okay, he's he's our Jerry for short stuff. No, I know I don't we haven't given Davi lot of love on the show. I know we need to man he's great yeah short stuff came along and Jerry was like yeah.

Don't bother me with that yeah I'm time for this crap.

Do I make extra money, then forget it yeah man, you guys don't know Jerry like we know Jerry.

What's greates she'll, never hear this. You know that's right as yeah. Custan will never pass this along he's to terrified ever that's right.

So we're talking about scratching our heads when you think, which is something that I don't do I don't when I read this though ther are a couple of thinking ticks that I have. That could be explained.

That's just not one of them for sure, and this was one of those things where I'm like. How is this going to be, like the origin of you, know a grain of salt just going to send me into like some sort of blind rage.

I thought so at first and then know it turns out when you start to really look into this, because if you think about it, that's a really weird thing to do it to scratch your head. When you're sitting there thinking and you might not do it - I don't do it, but we might not even know anybody who does that reliably. The thing is: Is it's like an idiom that being a head scratcher? It's like a cultural thing, at least in the West, where, if somebody's scratching their heads - and you know they're standing in front of Chalkboard, you know that they're trying to figure out some sort of problem and they're having trouble with it like that's just what that has to do with and there the explanations are multitudinous and again, it seems like something you'd be like that's ridiculous and then, if you stop and think about you like that, actually could be right in this case, yeah like if you were to take a beginning, acting class, and you were in there with a bunch of dumb beginning actors like I did in college right and the and the professor said the acting teacher said all right: Yoryou're, here's, the scene, you're trying to figure out a very difficult problem.

The first thing one of those dopes would do is scratch their head right, because that is just a popular trope to indicate or maybe scratch their Chin right. Something like that which counts is part of the head. I guess yeah, but it's universally a sign that you're thinking about something yeah, so it doesn't really make any senses where we have said you would do that and there's no definitive explanation for why which, which has really left the door open for a lot of people to put some ideas up.

One of the big ones is that it's a relic of evolution, yeah and that really what you're doing is you're not like you're, not you know, helping along your thoughts, you're, actually showing a form of distress yeah, whether it's anxe anger, anxiety.

Those are kind of the different interpretations and explanations, but the first one is that we're showing a remnant of what we used to do back in the e, the I guess, the TUK tug days yeah, where somebody something made us angry. We would maybe throw our arm up and strike them or whatever, and the first explanation of this is that we are starting to do that like we're, raising our arm out of anger, and then we stop, because we are civilized now and that ends up being like we almost kind of play it off by scratching. Our head yeah, it's a little thin, but but here's the thing this is when I was really like. Oh Mo there 's a little more to this, when you see somebody who's really mad and they're trying to keep from hurting somebody, you will frequently see that person like rubbing their forehead or rihthe back of their neck or something like that and what they're saying is. This is some sort of like derivation of that yeah yeah. I totally have seen that, and that is a real thing.

There's another possible explanation.

This was in a two thousand, an nine article for psychology today, when a a former FBI counter intelligence agent named Joe Navaro, talked about being under stress, and he said, our brain requires a certain amount of hand to body touching like either handringing or rubbing your temples or touching your lips or something, and what he saying is is that it's a soother instead of maybe a signal to an enemy.

It's just you self, soothing yourself through some sort of stressful or fearful situation, and there's actually some research to back that up, which I think choke. We should take a little break, okay, collect our thoughts and then come back and talk more about this whole hoad scratcher great all right. So you said that the FBI agent, Jon Navaro, said that this is kind of like a soothing thing like we're self soothing, like the the sense of touch, can have a soothing effect on us and if we're experiencing stress or anxiety or something just touching yourself can help, and supposedly because our head is the source of this issue. Our brain is: that's why we would touch right head rather than say, like our knees or something right.

The thing is: There is some research to back this up.

There was a study in two thousand and seventeen in scientific reports, which is a journal, and it's it watched forty five reces mechaqs, who are sorry, not sorry yeah, and they found that the kind of the the higher on the Totem Pole level macaks when they were stressed out, they might Sart to itch or scratch or just do something, and that this was taken by other mechacics who were saving may be more aggressive as a sign of like I'm. Really stressed out so just kind of leav me alone, and they actually were left alone.

Yeah made me think of the Seinfeld, where George said.

If you want people to leave, you alone look stressed out and annoyed Ghtand. There were all the times that they would walk by his office in Yankee Stadium Yeah, and he was doing that he would have his hands on his head. Rubbing his temples going, a and people be like you know, everyone would pass by his office, Bother Im right and he's a resis MECHAC. These these researchers were saying hat the way they interpreted. That is that it tells this potential attacker.

You know one I'm not fully stable here, so you don't know what I'm going to do so may lay off me, or I'm super stressed that I can't possibly defend myself. There's no point in attacking me to show your dominance. I'm already already submitting here that don't waste hour energy either way the the reces mccaqs that displayed some sort of itching or scratching behave. Sorry scratching, behavior, while they were stressed out signaling, they were stressed, were attacked less than those that didn't.

So I like this last one a lot too this one that you dug up displacement activity, so you've got an animal that has a couple of different options and, let's say a stressful situation, and it doesn't want to do either one of them or maybe can't decide which one to perform. So it does what's called the displacement activity. So you've got a bird.

Let's say that another bird comes to attack, it is like well should I attack back or should I just fly out of here?

I'm just going to pick up the ground instead and preening might be another activity or grooming oneself, and the theory is that these may have emerged.

Maybe it's a soothing physical contact right, or maybe it's just a routine behavior to calm yourself down or maybe sort of linking with that other one to throw off the person which kind of made me think of that guy and Athens who crashed his bike. That day, he had two choices was get up really quick and get my books and right out of there and say I mentioned you that or act in a lot of pain, and he said I'll. Do the third thing I'm going to act like I'm reading a book yeah, so he engaged in displacement active one hundred percent.

So there's one one last explanation that I found, and that is that people who scratch their head - or you know rub their eyes or something like that, while they're thinking are engaged in a certain kind of learning mode, is what it's called yeah a dominant learning mode, and that is where we, our senses, are involved in the way that we think about or recall or take in information.

And so people who are tactile with their learning modes would might touch themselves touch their their heads or something like that.

People who are visual learners might kind of look up in the sky or something like that. That's what I do where you're like you're kind of exaggerating the point of thes sense, even though that sense is not giving you any information helping along. It's almost like we just kind of revert to the sense tha that we're most comfortable with maybe taking information in with I'm, I'm not sure, but that's the last explanation. I saw yeah, that's the one that really hit home for me, because I am one thousand percent of visual learner.

If somebody's trying to explain something like how something operates, they can talk to me till they're bluw in the face. But if I actually see it, I will understand it and if I'm thinking of something or if I'm deep in thought, I will often like tit back in my chair and kind of look up in the sky and they're saying that that's what I'm doing basically and Righ t you know it makes sense. Somebody needs to teach you about percentages visually because there ain't no such thing as a thousand percent shut up.

I have to say check. You can't see me right now, but I have never scratched my head more than I hav during this. This recording this has been brutal.

All right, well, hopefully, didn't lose too many.

So that's it for short stuff. Everybody me and Chuck Ay Audios Stuff You Should Know - is production of ihart radios, house stuff works for more podcast to my heart radio, because if the IHAT radio AP Apple Podcasts, are wherever you listen to your favorite shows

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