Whether it's before a first date, a big exam, or an important job interview, everyone gets nervous sometimes. Many people calm these nerves by engaging in mindless, fidgety behavior like cracking their knuckles, chewing on their fingernails, or drumming their hands.
Obviously, none of this helps solve the problem at the root of your nervousness — so why do so many people do them in the first place?
Turns out, engaging in these nervous habits — though often unnerving to those in the vicinity — has a subtle subconscious calming effect on the person doing them. As DNews explains in a recent video, it all begins deep in a region of the brain known as the basal ganglia.
The basal ganglia helps coordinate voluntary movement and learning. It's not surprising then, that it is also responsible for habitual motions. Cracking knuckles or biting off hangnails does serve a purpose every now and again, causing the brain to associate the movement with a sense of relief. Over time, the brain puts the action on autopilot and searches for the relief without thinking.
But if these actions occur subconsciously, how can a person stop doing them?
Find out here:
Cover image: Shutterstock