August 31, 2005 - 5:06 pm 4 Comments

Looking at some of the news coverage from New Orleans and other disasters has got me thinking. Why is it human nature to grab one’s head while watching something catastrophic? Also, why cover your mouth or eyes? These are universal gestures which make me think it’s instinctive. What sort of survival mechanism caused these reflexes?

4 Responses to “Instinct”

  1. Paige Says:

    That’s a good question. The first thing that pops into my mind is that infants do the same thing as early as peek-a-boo., ie “If I don’t see you, you’re not there.” They also grab their hair and slap their cheeks and cover their faces when they are scared or upset. Given all that, it does seem to be instinctual in some way, but I can’t figure out how those skills would have ever been helpful in a survival by any means necessary situation.

  2. Jess Says:

    I think it’s like “I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to think about it.”

  3. addlepated Says:

    “It’s possible that placing the hand over the mouth may be to reduce the sound our breathing makes – reducing noise that can be detected by an enemy/predator. Having the hands above the shoulder near the head, might also help to protect this vital organ, or if we are attacked, they might be useful in this position to provide force and accuracy when moved downwards to hit a predator or enemy. They also provide balance in case sudden movement is required.”


  4. Professorevil Says:

    Self-preservation. Instinct is to protect your head from potential trauma, though in this case the trauma’s not physical, but your instinctual reaction certainly can be.