Why disappointed to raise your hands over your head?


Perhaps the best known and most explored context for this gesture is the football match. The player has the opportunity to kick the ball to the goal, but it is thrown past. The disappointed player raises his hands over his head, presses his elbows together, and slowly slides his hands down. Sometimes the gesture is accentuated by sinking to one’s knees at the same time.

The gesture has several meanings. Holding your head signals surprise, disbelief, and shock. The message can be emphasized with open eyes and mouth and shaking of the head.

Raising your hands, on the other hand, is a primitive protective reaction to an external threat. The disappointed person is aware of his or her contribution to the failure and protects himself or herself from judgment. Hiding the face behind your hands and kneeling, in turn, signal shame and a desire to appear small: submissive signals ask others for mercy.

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On the other hand, the gesture itself already contains a compassionate element, as stroking the head embodies care. Moving your hands down from your temples is a way to comfort yourself.

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Also interesting for empathy is how others can agree with the gesture. A sudden drop in a television singing competition can make fellow competitors and the audience hold their heads at the same time. In the gesture, the community signals that the disappointment is justified.

Defendant: Jenny Paananen

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Turku.

Published in Science 1/2022.


Source: Tiede by www.tiede.fi.

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