6 Embarrassing Things You Do—and Why

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Admit it: You've done at least one of these things before. Turns out, there's a scientific explanation for why.

1. Getting Caught Talking to Yourself

We’ve all been there. You’ve just done something stupid and reprimand yourself out loud or are asking yourself a question when someone walks in the room. Suddenly you look like a crazy person. But talking to yourself is not only insanely common (we all do it at least every couple days, and some people every hour) but it can be a sign of good things. Students who talk to themselves tend to do better at school. Studies show it keeps you more focused and alert. Despite this, we are trained not to engage in “private speech.” While young children talk to themselves constantly, it drops off once they start attending school, because adults tell them to stop.

2. Repeating Stories

People tend to get offended when you start telling them a story for the second time. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was—repeating a story either means you are boring or can’t even bother to remember the things you and your friends talk about. But studies prove that while you do probably remember the fact that you’ve told a story in the past, it is incredibly difficult to remember who you told it to.

3. Dropping Your Cell Phone

OK, dropping your cell phone on its own might not be embarrassing, but dropping it in the toilet definitely is. One in 5 people have apparently dropped their phone in the toilet. Why? Because 75 percent of Americans admit that they have used their cell phones in the bathroom to do everything from playing games and surfing the internet to making or receiving phone calls.

4. Lying About Seeing a Movie ...

...or reading a book. We’re constantly telling friends that we have seen movies or read important books even when we haven't, for seemingly no reason. It turns out that we are just desperate to be seen as smart. No one goes around lying about seeing the latest popcorn flick, but a surprising number of people lied about seeing The Godfather in a 2011 poll.

5. Pushing a Pull Door

Possibly nothing on this list is as embarrassing as walking up to a door and being unable to open it on the first try. It turns out that we still get this wrong all the time because architects and designers don’t care about how dumb you look—they just want their building to look pretty.

Even when establishments are willing to sully their nice entrances with “push” or “pull” signs, there is the issue of those words looking almost exactly the same. It’s still such a problem that as recently as 2011 there was a contest to design a sign that door openers could never mix up.

6. Getting Song Lyrics Wrong

You’re in the car rocking out to the radio with your friends when suddenly everyone is looking at you because you think Jimi Hendrix was crooning about kissing a guy. There are websites devoted to misheard song lyrics, so we’ve all done it at some point.

The scientific explanation is that when we talk to someone, we understand some of what they are saying by watching their lips move. If they have an accent or it’s loud, we can fill in a lot of the gaps we would otherwise have in what they are saying by looking at the speaker’s face. When we listen to music, we don’t have that visual, and end up mishearing things. And once we do sing those wrong lyrics they become difficult to forget; it is far easier to remember something set to music than when someone is just talking.

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December 9, 2013 - 5:00pm
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