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Why we yawn, get goose bumps

Many natural human reactions, like blushing, are not fully understood

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Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 9:50 am

 While we may all like to think we are in control of ourselves — sometimes our bodies are in control of us. Thankfully, we do not have to remember to force ourselves to breathe — we do that automatically.

 Our bodies have many different types of reactions that seem completely outside of our control, and have been the subject of much study and research over the years.


 A blush is easy to recognize, as a blushing person quickly stands out in a crowd, likely much to their displeasure.

 Two different types of blushing have been identified — the classic blush, when the face quickly turns a shade of red, and the creeping blush that progresses over time.

 Why do we blush at all, though? Physically, the answer is simple. Blushing occurs from the relaxing of blood vessels, which allows more blood to pass through which in turn causes your skin to turn red.

 Psychologically, blushing, is a little more complicated. It is thought to be a sign of social communication. Someone who blushes indicates they are receiving unwanted social attention. Psychologist Bruce Poulsen believes that blushing could serve an evolutionary purpose in our past to reduce interposal conflicts and maintain appeasement.


 Everyone has been tickled at some point in their life. Some may like it, while others may hate it. Surveys have been conducted to show that men tend to enjoy it more than women.

 Strangely though, we are unable to tickle ourselves, and the precise reason for this is not fully understood. One theory is that our brain anticipates our movement if we try to tickle ourselves, and prepares itself for it. We do know our body already behaves like this with other parts of our body. We do not feel the movement of our vocal cords when we speak, for example.

 According to the Discovery channel’s website (www.discovery.com), to fend off a tickle attacker, all you need to do is to simply place your hands on your assailant’s hands. This will trick your mind into thinking that you are the one doing the touching, and leave you tickle free.

Goosebumps and chills

 You may be listening to a new album or watching a dramatic television show when it hits you — a chilling sensation down your spine and goose bumps.

 According to a research paper published in Nature Neuroscience, listening to a great piece of music that provokes an emotional response can cause the release of the chemical dopamine, which results in the sensations of the ‘chills.’

 Goosebumps can also be brought about by a situation of great anxiety that provokes a fight or flight response. They cause your hair to stand on end. This served as an evolutionary purpose of making animals look bigger, and therefore more intimidating when dealing with predators.


 We yawn due to a combination of several factors. One bit of often circulated folk lore is that yawning increases your oxygen supply, which is actually incorrect. Other things associated with yawning, such as boredom and tiredness, are also believed play a part in making us yawn.

 Another factor could possibly be a warm brain. A recent study by Andrew Gallup of Princeton University and Gary Hack of the University of Maryland claim that yawning may help to regulate your brain’s temperature.

 Of course, one undeniable cause of yawning is other people, and there is little that can be done to prevent it. “Yawning is contagious. Seeing, hearing, thinking or reading about yawning can trigger yawns, and attempts to shield a yawn do not stop its contagion,” Gallup wrote.

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