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Germany

Unmasking The Mystery Of Why People Touch Their Faces

Why do our hands wander toward our faces: stroking chins, scratching eyebrows, rubbing noses? German researchers have discovered the neurology and psychology at play.

'Self-stimulation'
"Self-stimulation"
Fanny Jimenez

BERLIN — People constantly touch their faces. They stroke their chins or eyebrows, rub their noses or ears, cover their mouths or throats. We find it normal because everybody does it, but what does it mean?

Animals only touch themselves if there is an apparent reason to do so — for example, if a pesky insect is bothering them. Apes are the only exception. They too touch their faces, and anybody watching them would be unable to discern why.

This fact has puzzled scientists for over 200 years, mainly because the amount of touching increases when people or apes appear to be under stress.

Brain researchers working with Martin Grunwald at the University of Leipzig have succeeded in solving the puzzle. In the journal Brain Research, they report on many years of experimentation during which they analyzed the brain's electrical activity shortly before and after spontaneous face touching.

They discovered that touching changed electrical potentials in the brain, namely those having to do with storing information in working memory and emotional condition.

Shortly before touching the face, these parameters decreased. That means that working memory was overloaded, which is paired with a feeling of emotional overload. But after research subjects touched their faces, the parameters increased again.

Their conclusion is that spontaneous face-touching helps to regulate cognitive overload and stress. This "self-stimulation," as the Leipzig researchers call it, balances out disturbances in processing information and emotional swings.

What is still unclear is just why touching our faces has these particular effects.

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Society

Gun Violence In America: Don't Blame The Victims — That Means Rappers Too

The recent shooting of Takeoff, a rapper, is another sad incident of gun crime in the U.S. But those blaming hip hop culture for contributing to gun violence ignore that rappers themselves are also victims. And the real point is that in today's America, nobody is safe from gun violence.

Gun Violence In America: Don't Blame The Victims — That Means Rappers Too

Fans wait outside State Farm Arena in Atlanta to attend the memorial service for Migos rapper Takeoff on Nov. 11

A.D. Carson

Add the name of Takeoff, a member of the popular rap trio Migos, to the ever-growing list of rappers, recent and past, tragically and violently killed.

The initial reaction to the shooting to death of Takeoff, born Kirsnick Ball, on Nov. 1, was to blame rap music and hip hop culture. People who engaged in this kind of scapegoating argue that the violence and despairing hopelessness in the music are the cause of so many rappers dying.

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