Don't bother me now! --"Recent
research at the University of Western Australia identified the [slightly]
protruded tongue as a particularly effective cue for this message" (Burgoon et
expression. 1. A momentary protrusion of the
tongue between the lips. 2. A gesture of the tongue found in
gorillas and other primates, in children, and in all ethnic groups studied.
Usage: The tongue-show is a universal mood sign of unspoken
disagreement, disbelief, disliking, displeasure, or uncertainty. It may modify, counteract, or contradict a
verbal remark. Following the statement, "Yes, I agree," e.g., a protruded tongue
may suggest, "I don't agree." Tongue-shows can reveal misleading, ambiguous, or
uncertain areas in dialogue, public statements, and oral testimony, and thus may
signal probing points (i.e., unresolved verbal issues to be
further analyzed and explored).
Culture. In Tibet and southern
China, a brief tongue-tip show is used to show, "I didn't mean it"
Pediatrics. Infants ranging in age from 0.7 to 72 hours old can
imitate adult displays of tongue protrusion (Meltzoff and Moore 1983).
RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. The
tongue-show has been studied in both gorillas and human beings as a
negative sign of aversiveness and social stress (Smith et al.
1974). A gorilla pushed from its favorite sitting place, e.g., or a man entering
a roomful of strangers, will unwittingly show the tongue in
"displeasure." 2. Staring, striking, or scolding another
primate may release a tongue protrusion, which may be a fragment of the emotion
cue for disgust (Smith et al. 1974). 3.
Tongue between lips is a defensive sign children use when approaching
strange adults (Stern and Bender 1974).
E-Commentary I: "About body
language acts, in police interrogations I have many times observed the
tongue-showing cue just before the defendant would confess." --Marco Pacori
(12/17/00 9:53:16 AM Pacific Standard Time)
E-Commentary II: "I was trying
to discover what a tongue meant if it was curled, poked determinedly towards the
lips so an observer could see a tube or hollow. The mouth being rounded. This
was at the same time as the person concerned was saying something that I felt
was 'beaten you at this one' or 'I know best'. It seemed to be a gargoyle facial
expression. Very worrying. Should I be concerned? Last time he did that was
shortly (days) before beating me up. I am not expecting diagnosis nor counseling
but seek data on such an event in order to come to my own conclusion. Do you
have any reference or studies that I can view?" --Gillian (5/25/01 11:19:17 AM
Pacific Daylight Time)
E-Commentary III: "During my
stay in Thailand on the island of Koh Samui, I bought many handmade articles.
There, when one wants to buy something one bargains over the price. So I adapted
myself to that custom. Though many behaviors are different from ours [Marco
Pacori is Italian], nonverbal behavior stays the same. On one occasion, I
haggled about the price of a pair of pants. I asked the merchant how much, and
she quoted an outrageous price. So I began to bargain. I proposed a very low
price and she retorted with a very high price still. So, we went on negotiating.
At a given time I proposed a certain sum, and she made a curious behavior. She
looked away from me, her eyes appeared vacant, and she made a tongue protrusion
(her tongue appeared for a moment quickly out of her mouth). I have seen this
act in police interrogations moments before the suspect was going to yield [see
above, E-Commentary I].
Remembering the meaning of this observation, I put 'psychological' pressure on
her and she agreed to my price." --Marco Pacori (9/6/01 2:49:11 AM Pacific
Neuro-notes. 1. Subcortical: The tongue-show reflects
negative emotions of the amygdala acting through brain-stem paleocircuits of the hypoglossal nerve
(cranial XII). Stimulation of the amygdala can produce unwitting tongue
movements associated with eating and the sense of smell (Guyton 1996:758-59).
2. Cortical: That we often tongue-show while performing tasks
which involve precise manual dexterity, such as, e.g., while threading a needle,
may reflect the neural linkage between human tool-making and speech (see WORD,
See also LIPS.
Copyright 1998 - 2016 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)
Photo of Roger Clemens testifying before a U.S. Congessional Committee. On February 13, 2008, I observed several tongue-shows as Clemens said he'd never used steroids (picture credit copyright 2008 by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)