Why do we stick out our tongues when we’re concentrating?

Why do we stick out our tongues when we're concentrating?

Because the hands were initially involved in language, Forrester and her colleague proposed in a 2015 research published in the journal Cognition(opens in new tab) that the way our lips follow our hands. Forrester also researches apes, the nearest surviving cousins of humans. A lot of apes express themselves by gestures, and it’s plausible that before the invention of more sophisticated tools, early humans did the same. They believed that while our hands were engaged, our lips and tongues took over as the primary means of communication.

That is most likely the reason why we gesture so much when we communicate and why vision is our main sense, according to Forrester.

While seeing young children do tests of their fine-motor skills in a Swedish study(opens in new tab) studying kid non-right-handedness, she first saw recurring tongue protrusions.

Then, Forrester discovered a little Italian research that was conducted in 2001 and published in the Journal of Neurophysiology(opens in new tab). Participants in this study were instructed to pick up items of varying sizes. The study’s researchers discovered that the lips frequently imitated the hand. Subjects expanded their hands and lips wider when taking up larger things, and when picking up smaller objects, their mouths tended to be smaller in form, again matching their grasp.

Kids are more adept at engaging the mouth than adults, perhaps as a result of adults’ training in mouth-suppression, according to Forrester. After all, sticking out your tongue and pulling faces whenever you need to reflect deeply isn’t really professional.

One theory is that the fine-motor activities you use to complete a task or solve a problem have an underlying structure, according to Forrester.

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Imagine applying eyeliner or making a difficult knot. A series of accurate, fluid motions are necessary for these tasks. According to one idea, language structure resembles a proto-syntax, according to Forrester. You must follow the procedures in the appropriate order to achieve the desired result. The appropriate order of words is necessary to convey the intended message. A 2012 research published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B asserted that the motor control required to employ sophisticated instruments was fundamental to the emergence of language (opens in new tab).

In a 2015 study, Forrester discovered that the lips of 4-year-olds shadowed their hands. Children were substantially more likely to put out their tongues and hold them to the right side of their mouth during fine motor motions than during gross motor ones. The study put out the theory that this was because people usually used their dominant right hand, which is controlled by the left hemisphere, for precise activities. The researchers hypothesized that since speech and these sequences may be processed similarly, the lips may participate in imitating the hand’s forms and movements.

Although the hand-mouth link is well documented, Forrester noted that the notion behind why our tongues tend to slide out when we’re focused is still mostly untested. “It’s hard to determine whether it’s an artifact of evolution or whether they’re so close together [in the brain] that it overflows.”

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