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Swedish study explains why kids stick their tongues out when they're concentrating

by , 10 July 2015

You've probably noticed that when your little one is concentrating hard, he tends to stick his tongue out. Some adults do this too, yes, though it's markedly less endearing!

But why?

According to a new study in the journal Cognition, “this isn't just a cute quirk of childhood”. “Rather the behaviour fits the theory that spoken language originally evolved from gestures,” study authors wrote.

Read on to find out more - the findings are pretty interesting…

Research teams set to find out why kids stick their tongues out when they’re concentrating

The UK and Swedish research teams observed and videotaped 14 Swedish children (all four years old) completing a series of tasks that required concentration. One required fine motor control (for example, playing on their own with a lock and key), and another required communication (for example, playing with an experimenter a game they called “knock and tap”).
A third task tested story comprehension and the children’s ability to recall details from a short tale the experimenter told them.
During each task, the kids stuck out their tongues now and then during “think-ier” parts. This is in line with research, which found that kinds tend to do the “tongue thing” until around age six. 
But the kids stuck out their tongues out the most often during the knock and tap game. The finding was a surprise to the research team, who expected the behaviour to pop up most often during the motor control tasks. Anyone who’s seen a kid do a puzzle would likely agree!

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The theory the study offers as to why kids do the “tongue thing” when they’re thinking hard

But, as the study explains, what they actually found “makes sense in terms of the evolutionary history of language”.
The study reads: “The knock and tap game involves rapid turn-taking, hand gesturing and structure rules. What you could think of as ‘the foundational components of a communication system’ or the ‘rudiments of language.’”
What an adorable insight into the evolution of spoken communication!

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