Ask McFartnuggets: “Why Do People Cover Their Mouths When They’re Shocked?”

If you're truly shocked
usually you don't even
bother with the hand.
Dear McFartnuggets: 
Why do some people cover their mouths when they’re surprised by something? Whenever people are horrified by something like on 9/11 or when they see me naked they put their hand over their mouth. Why do they do that? And why do women do it more often than men? -- Iris from Glendale, Arizona

Dear Iris:
Yes, covering your mouth is a common human reaction to a surprise. There are a couple reason for this. First off it’s just bad manners to have your mouth wide open so people tend to cover their mouth like you do if you’re coughing. Also, when something shocking is happening usually there’s a dangerous situation occurring. When there’s danger, it’s not a good idea to walk around with your mouth wide open. This must be where evolution comes into play. You never know what could fly in there so subconsciously your brain tells your hand to cover its vulnerable head opening. You don’t want explosion debris to fly into your mouth. As for why women cover their mouths more than men, women generally have better manners than men so that ties back to the first reason of it being bad manners to stand slack jawed at something. Thanks for your question, Iris.

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