Why do we do the things we do? We may never have all of the information needed to answer this question in its entirety, but we certainly understand humans much better than we did just a few decades ago.
In fact, an entire field of science has been devoted to studying human behavior: evolutionary psychology. This field of research exists to explore why humans tend to behave a certain way and why we engage in specific habits without conscious thought.
Here’s the thing. As weird as humans may seem, we’re actually incredibly predictable. We do the same things over and over again, and some of those things are downright weird if you take the time to think about it.
We were curious if explanations existed for some the strangest of the strange, those things all humans do but no one really knows why. In short, it all comes down to evolution. The things we do are all about survival. Here’s the science behind some of the weirdest human behaviors out there.
1. It’s in his kiss.
Okay, at first glance, kissing may not seem all that weird. The more you think about, though, doesn’t it seem a little strange? We lock lips with people we like the most. Why, exactly, is this our go-to way to show our affection?
Although there is still much debate about why we started kissing in the first place, scientists believe they have nailed down at least a partial explanation for this behavior. When we kiss, we actually send information back and forth in the form of pheromones.
This information has an important role in helping us determine if a potential mate has promise for the long haul. One of the biggest factors being considered is whether their immune system is different from ours. This diversity is actually beneficial to offspring.
2. You’re so cute, I want to eat you?
We may not be so quick to admit it, but we’ve all felt that strange compulsion to nibble a baby’s toes from time to time. As bizarre as it may sound, this is typical behavior.
Scientists believe there are at least a couple of factors at work here.
When we see or smell an adorable baby or some other tiny, huggable thing, it actually activates the same pleasure/reward center of our brains that is turned on by looking at delicious food, according to Scientific American.
So the desire to nibble a little baby might simply be a case of our brains having similar responses to similar stimuli.
Another theory about this seemingly strange phenomenon notes that “social biting” is a common occurrence among mammals. For instance, some other primates are known to gently bite each other in a non-threatening manner. Scientists believe that this may be a way of building trust—demonstrating that even if you find your thigh in your mother’s mouth, she will not harm you.
Regardless of the possible explanations for this kooky desire, it goes without saying that a bento box makes for a better cute snack than a baby.
3. The Trick That Helps You Concentrate
There is nothing cuter than watching a toddler, hard at work on their latest masterpiece, with their tongue sticking out of their mouth in concentration. The reason this behavior is so commonplace is that it is actually programmed in our brains.
As humans developed language, we started with grunts and gestures to communicate our message with each other. According to scientists, children stick their tongue out during a challenging task because tough tasks are tripping a kind of loop in their brain that causes them to revert to some of the gestural language of our ancestors. This may also be why we rely on our hands when we’re trying to communicate something hard to explain.
4. Anger looks the same in every corner of the globe.
How we act on our anger may vary from culture to culture and personality to personality, but human beings share a common facial expression when we feel overwhelmed by anger.
Most humans experience anger on their face by clenching up their facial muscles and gritting their teeth. In fact, even when some variance exists in the appearance of anger, the same muscles are being activated.
There is an evolutionary explanation for gritting our teeth; it’s all about intimidation.
Flexing of the facial muscles clearly communicates the emotion of anger and along with it an understanding that we will use our power to get our way.
5. The Itch You Can’t Scratch
Scratching seems like common sense behavior, but it is strange to think that we inflict more discomfort on ourselves to relieve an annoying itch. There is an explanation for this approach.
Scientists say it was borne out of a desire to quickly remove whatever was irritating your skin. And when you keep scratching, you activate more nerves than the itching, which offers your brain a distraction from the itch.
6. The Devil on Your Shoulder
Decision making isn’t always an easy task. To simplify making choices, most humans engage in the weird behavior of actually arguing with ourselves. Whether it’s out loud in the privacy of our car during rush hour or a silent debate in the line at Starbucks, it’s something everyone does.
As it turns out, the way our brain thinks about who we will be in the future is really surprising. Scientists have theorized that our brains see our future self as a separate person. So those lively arguments we’re having about our next decision, big or small, feel really real inside of our minds.
7. If You’ve Ever Punched a Wall
When we’re really angry, human beings have a tendency to want to act out. Although it is no longer considered socially acceptable to punch a wall (or another human) when we’re upset, the compulsion toward aggression is an evolutionary behavior.
Scientists believe this desire to fight is hardwired into our brains. Early humans had to defend themselves to survive, so aggression came in handy. In modern times, we’re rarely faced with life-threatening situations, but our primal aggression hasn’t disappeared.
8. I heard it through the grapevine.
None of us are proud of it, but we have all shared a piece of juicy gossip at some point in our lives. As harmful as this habit may seem, there is actually an evolutionary explanation for why we gossip.
As humans, we become obsessed with the potential flaws of others because establishing a safe people group in which you belong is important to survival. In the past, it was a matter of trusting others with our lives. These days, gossiping has evolved into a way to feel you belong.
9. I love to laugh.
Laughter may be a language spoken all over the world, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a strange behavior. Why do we belt out weird noises when something tickles us?
Scientists know it is unconscious, meaning you can’t just make it happen. Additionally, research is clear that we laugh as a social behavior, not just because we find something funny, which is why people rarely laugh when they’re all alone. In fact, the clearest explanation of why we laugh is that we do it to establish relationships with others.
10. Closeness to the People We Love
Feeling the desire to be close to the people we care about is normal. We crave hugs and cuddling, even with people we are not romantically involved with.
There’s a scientific explanation for why human beings like to hug each other.
Basically, most babies and young children get hugged a lot because this is how their caretakers comfort them when they’re upset. As children grow into teenagers, those hugs decrease in frequency.
In adulthood, when we experience something that triggers a reaction of regression, we crave the affection of our childhood. That’s kind of sweet, when you think about it.