14 Human Reflexes That Amaze and Embarrass Us at the Same Time
Humans are really complicated creatures. Just think about our reflexes: they’re given to us by nature in order to make our lives easier but in reality, they often give us opposite results. Do you know why we’re curious? What does laziness protect us from? Why do we want to pee in the shower and how do we get “infected” by other people’s emotions?
We at Bright Side decided to learn more about the unusual and oftentimes illogical reflexes that are at the core of our behavior as human beings.
14. All babies swim with their mouths open underwater.
Any baby aged from 3 to 6 months holds their breath as a reflex when they go underwater. They also instinctively start moving. If the water gets inside their mouth, the vocal cords and the epiglottis close down, preventing the water from getting inside the lungs. Babies older than 6 months lose these abilities and have to learn to swim from scratch as if they hadn’t learned before.
Important: It’s not recommended to try and teach a newborn baby to swim without the control of a professional teacher.
13. The composition of tears changes depending on the reason you’re crying.
If we’re talking about tearing up, the composition of those tears can be different from others. In one case, the liquid is rich in anti-bacterial elements that keep the eye moisturized when blinking or while sitting in front of a computer screen for a long time. Also, tears can contain different elements and be caused by a source of irritation from the outside, like, for example, when you’re cutting onions, or if there’s an eyelash in your eye, or if there’s smoke around you.
When we cry due to emotion, our tears contain special hormones that help the body deal with stress faster and reduce the sensation of pain.
12. Laziness is a defense mechanism designed by nature.
The reflex of resistance (freedom) is the reaction to any external stimuli that are trying to limit you in something. It’s known that unlike other reflexes, the longer we experience these limitations, the more we want to get rid of them. We don’t ever get used to them.
For this reason, some scientists actually think that laziness is not a bad habit but rather, a kind of internal rebellion in which the body is trying to protect itself from a stressful situation that is limiting it in some way.
11. If you spend a lot of time in darkness, your eyes will see unusual clots of light.
This reflex is well-known to astronauts and fans of meditation and is referred to as “the prisoner’s cinema.” According to scientists, flashes of light that can change colors and have different shapes, appear in the darkness because of psychological tension, powerful magnetic fields, and chemicals; and can even have a mechanical impact on the eyes. No magic is involved!
10. Curiosity is an automatic function that increases a person’s chances of living a long and happy life.
Curiosity is an example of the orienting response: our organs receive information about the world around us all the time and the brain is comparing new data with data it’s acquired before. When there is a huge difference between the data, an orienting response kicks in: we turn to an unusual sound or focus our attention on something new.
The orienting response is at the core of the behavior that makes us want to learn new things. The brain rewards itself with the sensation of fun which pushes the curiosity even further.
Neuroscientists believe that very curious people who keep learning new things, even at an older age, live longer and happier lives because they rejuvenate their brain with hormones.
9. An unfinished action reloads the brain, putting it in a state similar to meditation.
When you have to do monotonous, boring work, your brain shuts down but still keeps an eye on the process. If the action is unfinished, the brain may enter a certain state that is very similar to meditation: it kind of reloads, deleting all unnecessary thoughts and tries to understand what task has to be finished. The new tasks may still be in front of you but the brain may be unable to fully concentrate on them.
This process can be seen if you have a feeling you forgot something, for example. You can’t concentrate on your actions in this case. In the end, you’ll discover that you never closed the door but you can’t even remember entering the house because you were talking on the phone.
8. Memories of the toilet make us want to pee in the shower.
If you hear the sound of flowing water or a stream, many people might want to go to the bathroom. Scientists think that this is a reflex that we acquire in childhood. When sitting on the toilet, children memorize the sounds of the process as well as the sound of water you hear when washing your hands. And in the shower, people also want to pee because of the warm water.
7. A person’s heart rate slows down as soon as they put their face in cool water.
This is all about the so-called diving reflex: as soon as your face touches cool water, your body enters a different energy-consumption mode. This way, it increases the pressure resistance and decreases the consumption of oxygen, thinking that the person is preparing to dive. It’s then that the heart rate slows down, the body temperature drops, blood vessels become tighter, blood flows to the most important organs, the hemoglobin level increases, and the blood gets more oxygen.
By the way, it’s worth noting that a quick dive into cold water is an effective method to help stop tachycardia in 1 minute and can soothe the headache when you have migraines.
6. Stress makes it hard for the brain to control the pupils.
Nystagmus can be caused by tiredness, lack of sleep, drinking too much caffeine, or taking certain medications. It is based on the vestibulo—ocular reflex when the brain is trying to get the exact picture of what’s going on, but because of hypertension and anxiety, it can’t really concentrate.
Wondering how you can see this for yourself? If you take a ride on a carousel or spin on your office chair, right after you stop, your pupils should shake for some time.
5. People blush to confuse others.
It’s believed that blushing is part of the defense mechanism of fight or flight. Before this, an adrenaline rush happens as a response to an external irritator. The pupils increase in size, the heart beats faster, and the oxygen-filled blood is pumped to the muscles. The process covers the entire body but the redness is best seen around the ears, neck, the upper part of the chest, and face.
Scientists claim that this reflex is only found in people and it is a way to express remorse, so blushing may be seen as a social instinct. When we see that someone is blushing, we get confused over what to do and we try to reconsider the situation or the role of the person in it. And those who blush in embarrassing situations are liked by people more than those that stay visually calm.
4. Goosebumps are a signal of a sudden change of emotion.
In the past, this was a reaction to a sudden change of temperature: the hairs would keep the layer of warm air around the skin or vice versa: the skin would get covered with sweat to cool the body down. We don’t know why but this reflex also works when we have a sudden mood change like when something scares us, when we shiver, or when we hear nice music.
Interesting fact: Reddit users collected materials that give them strong emotions and goosebumps. For example, listen to the very beginning of some Hans Zimmer music — the change in volume and unusual sounds will most likely make you feel that way too.
3. The brain gets “infected” with other people’s emotions, treating them as its own.
Look closer at babies: when a parent is sad, the baby notices and starts crying, even though they don’t know why. It’s all about emotional contagion. This is why we’re drawn to people that feel happy — even though we don’t necessarily have a reason to feel that emotion, we subconsciously try to adopt it from a different person, so we want to be with them.
By the way, the ability to infect and get infected with emotions is innate.
2. The eyes are focused on the same thing, even if you turn your head or your body.
How do people turn their heads left and right and still keep their eyes focused on something? The vestibulo-ocular reflex is responsible for this — it helps the brain stabilize the image we see.
By the way, it is this reflex that allows ballet dancers to spin 20-30 times during performances.
1. Looking at the sun makes us want to sneeze.
This is the function of the photic sneeze reflex. 1 out of every 4 people sneezes when they look at the bright light of the sun. Scientists still don’t know why this is necessary but they do know that this quality is inherited from one’s parents.
Tell us about the unusual things you’ve noticed about your body in the comment section below!