Happy Scribe
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Hey, and welcome to the short stuff, I'm Josh. There's Chuck Jeri's out there. Oh, I'm sorry. And Dave's here in spirit, too, so.

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Oh, yes. Short stuff.

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You should know the short stuff, Ed.. They've Russ No. Dave Couston, the editor of Short Stuff, the producer. OK, he's our he's our Jerry for short stuff.

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No, I know I don't. And we haven't given Dave a lot of love on the show. I know. We need to man. He's great.

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Yeah. Short stuff came along and Jerry was like, yeah, don't bother me with that. Yeah. I'm tired of crap. Do I make extra money then forget it. Yeah. Man, you guys don't know Jerry like. Well you know, Jerry, what's great is you'll never hear this, you know. That's right. Well yeah. Couston will never pass this along. He's too terrified ever.

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That's right. So we're talking about scratching our heads when you think which is something that I don't do. I don't. Even when I read this, though, there are a couple of thinking ticks that I have that could be explained.

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That's just not one of them for sure. And this was one of those things where I'm like, oh, is this going to be like the origin of, you know, a grain of salt just going to send me into, like, some sort of blind rage? I thought so at first. And then no, it turns out when you start to really look into this, because if you think about it, that's a really weird thing to do, is to scratch your head when you're sitting there thinking and you might not do it, I don't do it, but we might not even know anybody who does that reliably.

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The thing is, it's like an idiom that being a head scratcher, it's like a cultural thing, at least in the West, where if somebody scratching their heads and, you know, they're standing in front of a chalkboard, you know, that they're trying to figure out some sort of problem and they're having trouble with it. Like that's just what that has to do with. And they're the explanations are multitudinous. And again, it seems like something you'd be like, that's ridiculous.

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And then if you stop and think about you like, that actually could be right in this case. Yeah.

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Like if you were to take a beginning acting class and you were in there with a bunch of dumb beginning actors like I did in college. Right. And and the professor said the acting teacher said, all right, you know, here's the scene. You're trying to figure out a very difficult problem. The first thing one of those dopes would do is scratch their head. Right, because that is just a popular trope to indicate or maybe scratch their chin.

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Right. Something like that, which counts as part of the head, I guess. Yeah. But it's universally a sign that you're thinking about something. Yeah.

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So it doesn't really make any sense is where we have said you would do that. And there's no definitive explanation for why, which, which has really left the door open for a lot of people to put some ideas up. One of the big ones is that it's a relic of evolution. Yeah. And that really what you're doing is you're not like you're not, you know, helping along your thoughts. You're actually showing a form of distress. Yeah.

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Whether it's angst, anger, anxiety, those are kind of the different interpretations and explanations. But the first one is that we're we're showing a remnant of what we used to do back in the the the I guess the TUC TUC days. Yeah. Where somebody something made us angry. We would maybe throw our arm up and strike them or whatever. And the first explanation of this is that we we are starting to do that, like we're raising our arm out of anger and then we stop because we are civilised now.

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And that ends up being like we almost kind of play it off by scratching our head. Yeah, it's a little thing. But but here's the thing. This is when I was really like, oh, there's a little more to this. When you see somebody who's really mad and they're trying to keep from hurting somebody, you will frequently see that person like rubbing their forehead or the back of their neck or something like that.

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And what they're saying is this is some sort of like derivation of that.

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Yeah, yeah. I totally have seen that. And that is a real thing. There's another possible explanation. This was in a 2009 article for Psychology Today when a former FBI counterintelligence agent named Joe Navarro talked about being under stress and he said our brain requires a certain amount of hand body touching, like either hand wringing or rubbing your temples or touching your lips or something. And what he's saying is, is that it's a soother instead of maybe a signal to an enemy.

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Right. It's just you self soothing yourself through some sort of stressful or fearful situation.

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And there's actually some research to back that up, which I think we should take a little break, OK, collect our thoughts and then come back and talk more about this whole head scratcher.

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And if we're experiencing stress or anxiety or something, just touching yourself can can help. And supposedly because our head is the source of this issue, our brain is. That's why we would touch our head rather than say like our knees or something. Right. The thing is, is there is some research to back this up.

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There was a study in 2017 in Scientific Reports, which is a journal, and it's watched 45 rhesus macaques who are sorry, not sorry.

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Yeah. And they found that the kind of the the higher on the totem pole level macaques, when they were stressed out, they might start to itch or scratch or just do something. And that this was taken by other macaques who were, say, maybe more aggressive as a sign of like, I'm really stressed out. So just kind of leave me alone. And they actually were left alone.

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Yeah. It made me think of the Seinfeld where George said, if you want people to leave you alone, look stressed out and annoyed. Right. And there are all the times that they would walk by his office in Yankee Stadium and he was doing that. He would have his hands on his head, rubbing his temples, going off. And people would be like, you know, everyone would pass by his office that bother him. Right. And he's a rhesus macaque.

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These these researchers were saying the way they interpreted that is that it tells this potential attacker, you know, one, I'm not fully stable here, so you don't know what I'm going to do. So maybe lay off me or I'm super stressed that I can't possibly defend myself. There's no point in attacking me to show your dominance. I'm already already submitting here. So don't waste your energy. Either way, the the rhesus macaques that displayed some sort of itching or scratching behavior are scratching behavior while they were stressed out, signaling they were stress were attacked less than those that didn't.

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So I like this last one a lot, too. This one that you dug up, displacement activity. So you've got an animal that has a couple of different options and let's say a stressful situation. And it doesn't want to do either one of them or maybe can't decide which one to perform. So it does what's called the displacement activity. So you've got a bird, let's say that another bird comes to attack. It is like, well, should I attack back or should I just fly out of here?

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I'm just going to pick up the ground right instead. And preening might be another activity or grooming oneself. And the theory is that these may have emerged. Maybe it's a soothing physical contact. Right. Or maybe it's just a routine behavior to calm yourself down or maybe sort of linking with that other one to throw off the person. Mm hmm. Which kind of made me think of that guy in Athens who crashed his bike that day. He had two choices was get up really quick and get my books and ride out of there and say I may do that or act in a lot of pain.

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And he said, I'll do the third thing. I'm going to act like I'm reading a book. Yeah.

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So he engaged in displacement activity 100 percent. So there's one one last explanation that I found in that is that people who scratch their head or, you know, rub their eyes or something like that while they're thinking are engaged in a certain kind of learning mode is what it's called. Yeah. A dominant learning mode. And that is where we our senses are involved in the way that we think about or recall or take in information. And so people who are tactile with their learning modes might touch themselves, touch their their heads or something like that.

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People who are visual learners might kind of look up in the sky or something like that. That's what I do. Well, you're like you're kind of exaggerating the point of this sense, even though that sense is not giving you any information you're helping along. It's almost like we just kind of revert to the sense that we're most comfortable with maybe taking information. And I'm not sure. But that's the last explanation I saw.

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Yeah, that's one that really hit home for me because I am 1000 percent a visual learner. If somebody is trying to explain something like how something operates, they can talk to me till they're blue in the face. But if I actually see it, I will understand it. And if I'm thinking of something or if I'm deep in thought, I will often like sit back in my chair and kind of look up in the sky and they're saying that that's what I'm doing, basically.

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And, you know, it makes sense.

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Somebody needs to teach you about percentages visually because there is no such thing as a thousand percent. Shut up. I have to say check. You can't see me right now, but I have never scratch my head more than I had during this recording.

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This has been brutal. All right. Well, hopefully didn't lose too many. So that's it for short stuff, everybody. Me and Chuck say adios. Stuff you should know is production of radios HowStuffWorks for more podcasts, My Heart Radio, is it the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows?