Why do people stick their tongue out when concentrating?

I often see people at work sticking their tongue out when working on a difficult problem or trying to make a fine adjustment. Today I caught myself doing while trying to manoeuvre through the local Treego (an obstacle course consisting of zip lines, swinging log bridges, etc, mounted in the trees). I noticed myself doing it but didn’t stop because it did actually seem to help and I really had to focus to get from one swinging section to the next but I keep wondering if it actually does help and if it does, why?

A quick “stick tongue out concentrate” in Google gives a pretty reasonable answer:

Of course, this wins the Internet for best use of accompanying image.

I started doing it when I was little to emulate Michael Jordan. It just never went away.

I always thought Jordan was very lucky not to have bitten his own tongue off going to the hoop in heavy traffic all those years.

This was one of my concerns while I was crossing the logs. If I had fallen my safety harness would have stopped me but I certainly would have bitten my tongue quite hard.

Thanks for the response J Cubed. I don’t remember what terms I googled the first time around but those definitely didn’t come up.

I’m a little tired and possibly not thinking clearly, but does this mean that certain mental activities requiring concentration are somehow crosslinked with the sense of taste? And is this some sort of accident of evolution?

Watching Greg Maddux pitch one time, I said, “If I did my job with my tongue sticking out like that, they’d take me away.”

One of the first books I remember reading was an autobiography of Jordan. I specifically remember him saying he hoped kids didn’t do it because of him for that very reason. I also remember him saying his dad did it to (and I think his dad did it when he was working on cars, but it’s been 15 years, so I could be remembering that second part wrong).

Hasn’t anyone here mentioned having an answer just at the tip of their tongue? They’re obviously trying to stretch to get the answer. :wink:

Relatedly, why do we open our mouths when putting in contact lenses? Is it because we’re open our eyes wide anyway and the mouth is emulating that openness?

To open your eyes as wide as possible, you’ll find that you need to drop your jaw down to really pull all the cheek muscles as far down as possible. You can do that with your lips together, but it’s easier not to. Try it.

To further the hijack…

Why, when driving, do we turn the radio down while trying to find a specific street address?

And also…

Not everyone will have experienced this. And fewer still will have noticed it…

But when spoon feeding an infant you have an involuntary urge to open your own mouth. Someone pointed this out in the time frame that I was feeding my youngest child so I actually paid attention. It actually takes effort to keep your own mouth closed…

Ahh!! I don’t do this, but I do turn off or down my mp3 player if I’m looking for a specific [address/item in a store/etc.]. I’m not sure why! And I’m not the only one! :slight_smile:

And why do we look at the radio when they’re saying something we really want to hear? I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I thought.

I think that’s because of mirroring neurons. When we see someone doing something, we have an unconscious impulse to imitate them. You hold your mouth open to get your baby to open their mouth.

Because our brain can only pay attention to so many things at once. Reducing outside stimuli helps us concentrate.

I guess because infants tend to imitate adults around them, and people tend to imitate the body language of others.In the case of infants, you are demonstrating what you want them to do – open wide so you can stuff food in. If they see you opening your mouth, they are more likely to do the same. Monkey see, monkey do.

In the case of adults, it’s partially an unconscious effort to empathize with them by putting yourself in a similar state of mind and communicating to the other person that you agree on some fundamental level, IMO.

It’s bad when I start imitating my horse – he cocks his head, I cock my head. He shakes his head up and down, I nod back at him. Does this mean I’m crazy, or just that he has complete mind control over me? :o

I think we either put ourselves into the pose of “concentrating” so we can concentrate (because that is what society has taught us to look like when we need to concentrate.) OR so we can try to show others that we really are concentrating even if we do not have that capability.