Friday FYI: Stop the Hiccups
Why anticipation makes things not happen but helps your friends’ love lives.
By Maria Popova
Your buddy’s got the hiccups right before a big date and just can’t make it stop? Be a hero: ask him to pay attention and give you a sign as he feels the next hiccup coming on, right before it happens.
It’ll never come.
Before you scream “Witch!,” here’s how it happens: pure brain geekery. You see, the hiccups are essentially a series of involuntary, spasmodic contractions of the diaphragm. Unlike voluntary contractions like breathing and blinking, involuntary ones like the hiccups and your heartbeat are orchestrated by parts of your brain you can’t directly command.
But when you ask your buddy to predict the next hiccup, you’re essentially messing with his brain: because one can’t predict what one can’t control, it essentially forces the brain’s inner control freak to turn its attention to the pesky spasms and switch the involuntary contractions off.
Think of it as reverse psychology on a neurological level.
Published June 13, 2008