Usage I: Our tight-fisted gestures given in anger, arousal, and fear employ the muscles and neural circuits of the power grip. Unlike its cerebral cousin--the precision grip--the power grip has its roots in a primitive grasping reflex, and often signals an emotional rather than a reasonable response.
Usage II: Holding objects tightly
(e.g., steering wheels, posts, and handrails) is curiously pleasurable (perhaps
as a holdover from our primate past and penchant for climbing trees; see
PRIMATE BRAIN). Thus, power-gripping sports such as
baseball, tennis, and golf
are very popular today (see BRANCH
Culture. In Syria, clenching both hands in power grips, and raising them together over the midriff, with the thumbs positioned outward--as if stretching a rope--means, "I will strangle you" (Morris 1994:74).
Embryology. "A newborn infant has a grasp and a reaching reflex. He will automatically close his fingers tightly around any object placed in the palm of his hand" (Chase and Rubin 1979:177).
Evolution. The power grip originated as a
primate adaptation for climbing.
Neuro-notes. In grasping a racket or a club, sensory feedback to the motor cortex may unconsciously tighten our grip. Stimulated by grasping, pressure-sensitive tactile receptors cause further excitement and contraction of muscles to unwittingly increase the tightness of our grip.
See also HANDS, OBJECT FANCY.
Copyright 1999 - 2013 (David B.
Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)
Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron M. Huffman)