Why is it that we innately cover our mouths during extreme surprises?


Why is it that we innately cover our mouths during extreme surprises?

In: Biology

When we are surprised our body reacts by taking in a deep breath of air so we have enough oxygen to prepare for the next move we may need to defend ourselves or react to the event that caused us to be surprised, or scream/yell with our mouths open sometimes in fright.

When we take that deep breath in, we also open our mouths- and inherently we may be either trying to:
A. Hide the fact we are shocked, after we realized there may actually be no harm and it was a close call, because we might feel embarrassed
B. Being in a surprised state with our mouths open to take in that breath to take on a defensive posture, instinctively we will cover our mouths to protect our mouth as well.

It’s not innate but it is probably cultural/socially learned.

A surprised look without covering your face might look aggressive or negative to onlookers. In order to prevent that outcome some cover it to signal the surprise and control.

Where are you from? Here in Austria (and a lot of other places in Europe I’ve been to) I’ve never seen anyone doing this. I know the gesture and I’ve seen people doing it as a joke.

Edit: Or in movies/videos to convey surprise (because how else would you show it?). Or by women/girls when they intentionally overreact (accompanied by a lot of giggling and girlish screaming).