Eli5:what muscles are responsible for the cringe sensation? Why does your body react the way it does when such an event occurs?


Eli5:what muscles are responsible for the cringe sensation? Why does your body react the way it does when such an event occurs?

In: Biology

It’s a physical reaction to an emotional trigger. The whole ‘cringe’ thing is sympathetic embarrassment, as we put ourselves in the subject’s place and imagine how we’d feel in that situation.

Like i hear a story about man or woman hitting the center bar on a bike with their crotch, i immediately close my legs and grab crotch. Or the vids where the person falls real bad.
Im probably overreacting to some degree.

your brain is still that of a caveman, sometimes it has trouble discerning between physical damage and social damage. when you’re about to get run into by something you “cringe” to protect your head and vital organs from major damage. knowing the emotional and social implications of someone doing something embarrassing sends a signal to your brain that you’re seeing something “dangerous” and your immediate reaction is to protect yourself.


platysma, depressor labii inferioris, depressor anguli oris, risorious, orbicularis oculi, and i think mentalis. probably not the answer you were looking for. probably not eli5. dont know why im typing this.

Its sympathetic, our species relies entirely on social acceptance, everything in our brains is made to convince others that we fit in and spot why others dont fit in, so cringing shows to anyone looking at you “i sympathise with that person and share in their pain” in an effort to make them think “hmm that person belongs”.

It’s not really a certain muscle. Its more of a chemical reaction causing a physical response

The vargus nerve! It’s a small neural group/muscle on our head that is directly attached to the emotional center of the brain. It processes our phsycial reaction to emotional thoughts.

Dacker Kilter does a great lecture on this. Apparently the development of the vargus nerve directly correlates with the ability to empathize and other social – emotional intelligence.

I’ve never considered a “cringe” as a physical experience. Seems purely psychological to me. Or are you referring to a sympathetic reaction to physical pain on someone else? Guess it depends on what you mean by cringe.

It kind of feels like pain. I might make a wincing face when cringing. I’ve heard that emotions like disgust although highly symbolic it is “felt” in our guts. Broken heart syndrome is felt as pain in the chest often confused with a heart attack. Perhaps the cringe emotion is processed highjacking the pain receptors. Perhaps we can use language as clues. I think of bombing (on stage) and getting burned as cringe worthy. Both are painful: getting burned and exploding. Maybe cringe highjacks our nevous system?

Edit: I’m just a human not a scientist.

Looking for clarity on cringe, like getting goosebumps? A pilomotor reflex?

when I jump from tall heights in a video game I can feel the drop in my balls. I know how that sounds when you read it, but I swear to god it happens to me every time.