Body movement. 1. A conspicuous up-and-down motion of the Adam's apple. 2. A movement of the throat visible while gulping or swallowing, as in nervousness.
Usage: The Adam's-apple-jump is an unconscious sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress. At a business meeting, e.g., a listener's Adam's apple may inadvertently jump should he or she dislike or strongly disagree with a speaker's suggestion, perspective, or point of view.
U.S. politics. The Adam's apple gained it's 15 minutes of fame when former Vice President James Danforth Quayle's thyroid cartilage "jumped" in the 1988 vice-presidential debates, as his opponent, Lloyd Bentsen, pointedly replied, "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy!"
RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. Swallowing "associates well with flight and submission" (Grant 1969:528). 2. Stimulating the emotionally sensitive amygdala can cause involuntary body movements "associated with olfaction and eating, such as licking, chewing, and swallowing" (Guyton 1996:758-59).
Anatomy. Anxiety, social discomfort (e.g., embarrassment), and fear are often visible in unwitting, vertical movements of a projection at the front of the throat called the laryngeal prominence, where the largest (or thyroid) cartilage of the Adam's apple shows, prominently in men, but less noticeably in women.
Neuro-notes. Acting through the vagus nerve (cranial X), emotional tension from the brain's limbic system causes unconscious muscular contractions of the sternothyroid, thyrohyoid, and associated inferior pharyngeal constrictor muscles of the Adam's apple. Movement is evident as the muscles contract to swallow, to throat-clear, or to vocalize an objection which may be left unsaid. The Adam's apple is emotionally responsive (i.e., reflects visceral or "gut" feelings) because its muscles are mediated by the vagus nerve, one of five cranial special visceral nerves.