6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

Your body is out to destroy you, and we've got the science to prove it.
6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

Every once in a while we hear a story about a person in an extreme situation hulking out and doing something strongtacular, like lifting a dinosaur off of a loved one or fighting a bear over a hoagie.

Most of us read those stories and say, "Wait a second. Not only do I not take on superpowers when under stress, I actually get all shaky and poop my pants."

Well, science has been looking into all the hilarious ways we screw up, and not just because the research is hilarious. There are scientific reasons why it seems like your body turns on you at the worst possible moments.

"Brain Farts"


A "brain fart" is the term that describes a sudden, unexplained instance of unknowledge. Like when you walk into a store for something and immediately forget what it was you came in for.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

Wait, there it is.

Of course it's not just a minor inconvenience if it happens when you're blowing through that red light you didn't notice, or remembering you were supposed to turn the cooling tower on as your town's emergency alert sirens start going off.

So What's to Blame?

This has long considered just one of those mysteries of the brain, but researchers have recently done studies that found that your brain basically has a built-in sleep mode, like your PC. The "brain farts" weren't sudden, random glitches, but planned shut-downs. Up to 30 seconds before a mental fart occurred, researchers could see the relaxation centers of the brain lighting up and other sections going dark.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

This "sleep mode" exists in your brain for the same reason it does on your PC: to conserve energy. The studies found brain farts usually happen when you're in the process of doing an activity that you've done a million times, like a routine task at work or skinning a jackrabbit. The thinking part of your brain figures it doesn't need to be around for that boring shit, and nods off.

The problem, of course, is that a whole lot of those repetitive tasks are also the most important things we do in the course of a day. Some of us have jobs where failing to do them right even once results in everything catching on fire.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

"Dammit, brain! Not again!"

Tests showed that the sudden, horrible realization that your brain had checked out on you is usually all it takes to jolt it back into action. So basically the brain says, "I'm going on break, but don't worry, I'll be back as soon as you fuck something up."


"Hey, what'd I miss?"

Scientists are actually working on a mind-reading hat that can detect when you're in that 30-second countdown until brain-shutoff and prevent it. This is presumably for people who have the kind of jobs where even a momentary lapse of concentration can mean disaster. Lion tamers and such.


There's no way this idea can go wrong.

"Choking" Under Pressure

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

There are only two things you and millionaire athletes have in common: You both could probably sleep with your wife if you ask nicely, and you both have a capacity for choking under pressure.

TUyoU Oneinel Carmty

If you watch sports highlights regularly, you've probably seen it happen just this week. A field goal kicker misses the chip shot with no time on the clock; the NBA guard who had no problem scoring his first 30 points of the game can't drain his last two standing at the free throw line down by one with two seconds on the clock.

So What's to Blame?

Scientists (who were probably pissed that they have to spend six months writing a grant to fund their choke research when the aforementioned shooting guard was making an eight-figure salary) have actually studied the choking phenomenon. Why are some players "clutch" and others "chokers"? It has to do with how the brain learns new information.

When you first learn a skill, you learn it explicitly, which means you learn the technique of what you're attempting in a methodical, mechanical way. Like a robot.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

But after a few thousands lay-ups or bat swings or alligator throat punches or whatever, the process becomes implicit, meaning you can do it without even thinking. If you're doing it in the realm of high-level athletics, that's absolutely essential because every move is done with split-second timing. Kobe Bryant often has to decide how he's going to approach the basket while in mid-air. There's no time to think, so how well you perform depends entirely on how well you've trained the instinctual part of your brain.

For the small portion of our readership who aren't professional athletes, you may have experienced the difference between explicit and implicit skills while walking in front of a room full of people, or typing while someone looks on, or flying down a stair case when some asshole tells you to "watch where you're going with that chainsaw." The moment you start thinking about it, the thing you've done a million times becomes awkward or impossible.

The problem is every now and then, particularly in high pressure situations, the explicit part of the brain that first learned those skills a thousand repetitions ago wants to come to the party, too. Your body suddenly reverts back to the technical, deliberate, awkward movements it took to learn the game. Suddenly, you're thinking through the task ("step one, grab the alligator around the jaws, step two, make a fist...") instead of just doing them in one lightning-fast, smooth motion. The ground ball skips off your glove because you're trying to field it with a part of your brain that hasn't played baseball since you were in little league. You "choke."


Aww... that's OK, sport. You'll get it next time! Who's ready for ice cream??



Nothing captures the eye of a beautiful, young woman like a face full of pus-bubbles. Then that beautiful, young woman turns away in disgust and may or may not vomit.

So isn't it wonderful that your body is capable of randomly peppering your facial area with dozens, if not hundreds, of inflamed marks of pre-manhood? Those little whiteheads and blackheads single-handedly kept you out of the popular clique in high school, didn't they?


Eh, maybe not single-handedly.

But what's worse is the way the pimples seem to know that you've got a big date or prom coming up. It's like your complexion "chokes" just like the basketball player at the free throw line up there.

So What's to Blame?

While it's been an old wives tale for generations that acne is caused by stress, until recently, scientists scoffed heartily at the very notion. What they could not scoff at is the fact that acne outbreaks are caused by oil that builds up under your skin and blocks pores, however.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

So scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine studied students during finals, just to see if the pressure of taking tests exacerbated their acne. Guess what? It totally did. First, stress prompted the adrenal glands to pump out more hormones, which led to extra face oil, which led to more zits. This was then compounded by the fact that the normal healing processes slowed down. It was like dropping a Mentos of stress into the diet soda of clogged pores.

Coke rid

Your chin during finals.

Stress is, in fact, a very common way to throw off the balance of hormones in your body. Other times that hormones might get adjusted and ruin your skin include: puberty, pregnancy and menstrual cycles. Is the correlation becoming a little clearer? Basically any time in life that could cause you physical and/or emotional misery and embarrassment is fertile ground for blemishes to appear.

Thanks, evolution.

Erectile Dysfunction/Premature Ejaculation

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

The males in the audience know that the jokes about your penis having a mind of its own ring terrifyingly true. It has its own agenda. Most of the time, you and your penis might be in perfect agreement, but at others, you may find your erection fails even with an attractive lady ready and willing in your bed. Then the erection returns the next day when it's unwelcome, like while you're trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your choking best friend.

So What's to Blame?

In a twist of cruel biological function, the same part of your brain that controls the "fight or flight" response is also a major component in activating and deactivating your dong or, if you are a woman, your girl-dong.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

Girl-boner material.

As you have probably guessed, having the part of your brain that controls orgasms share space with the part responsible for you running away from confrontation can cause miscommunications on a Three's Company-esque scale. That puts those functions squarely in the "involuntary" category, which means they are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. It's really a biological recipe for hilarity.

Dscar Mayer

"Please, Weinermobile, just stick around for a... DAMMIT!"

All of those non-voluntary functions are constantly being controlled by two conflicting chemicals: epinephrine and norepinephrine. These two chemicals are a lot like cops in any generic buddy cop movie. Epinephrine is the partner who's always on edge and constantly pushes the boundaries of good taste and legality, while norepinephrine is the wiser, older, often Danny Glover partner who would rather do things by the book.

When the "fight or flight" mechanism is triggered (as it is when you get excited), the balance of these two is thrown off. The possible outcomes are equally bad. If there's too much Danny Glover, your erection will wilt faster than a malnourished rose and you'll be hard-pressed to get it up anytime soon. Alternately, if there's too much rogue cop, there'll be a quick finish followed instantly by overwhelming shame and/or tears.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

"You're a loose cannon, Boner Cop!"

Tip-of-the-Tongue Speechlessness

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

It feels like the verbal version of the brain fart. You are asked a question that you know the answer to, that you've always known the answer to. "Hey, who played the coach on Coach?" asks your dad. Sure, you could just go look on the entire shelf full of Coach DVDs across the room, but you shouldn't have to.


Answer: Craig T. Nelson.

Hell, you can provide outrageous amounts of information about the answer, you can name 20 movies the guy has been in, all while the name hovers elusively in the corners of your consciousness, taunting you, berating your intelligence, even screwing your girlfriend in your presence. The best you can do is come up with a similar sounding word, knowing it's nowhere near the right answer.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

"Uh... Greg... Be... Hell, son?"

So What's to Blame?

When you learn a word your brain stores it in three different places. You learn the letters of the word, the way it sounds and its meaning, and three different parts of your brain handle those three tasks. Easy enough, as long as they all communicate with each other. Fortunately, the more often you use that word, the stronger the connections are between the letters/sounds/meaning and the more reliable the wiring between those three parts of the brain.

But sometimes if you're put on the spot to recall a word, your brain turns on you like the two-timing slut she is. If someone just gives the description of the word ("the guy in Coach"), your brain has more work to do. Instead of comprehending the physical traits and sound of the word, it has to start with the meaning and try to make the connections from that. And sometimes the connection is wrong.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)


It's the attempt to recover from one of those misfiring connections that leaves you staring at the floor, snapping your finger and saying, "Come on, I know this."

Worst of all, focusing on the wrong answer actually strengthens the incorrect connection between that word and the description.


"Ah, I got it. Jerry Van Dyke."

Soiling Yourself in a Panic

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)

By now, you're probably worried about sabotaging any chance you'll ever have at happiness. Sorry, but there's just one last thing that you should know: You can actually shit your pants out of terror. It's not just a figure of speech.


So What's to Blame?

When our ancestors made up their minds to flee from various dinosaurs, they very well could have left a line of fecal matter in their wake. It's another part of the "fight or flight" response, which served them well for thousands of years but is kind of inconvenient in the era of expensive pants and roller coasters.

When the fight or flight mechanism is activated, a few things happen. Respiration and blood circulation increases to make your muscles operate better. But in order to make your legs run faster and your arms flail more girlishly, blood has to be redirected from other parts of your body. To do that, "non-vital" operations are put on hold.


One of these people will shit themselves while struggling to keep up.

Included in that list of non-vital operations are the muscles that right now are holding in your urine and poop. Whoever deemed the ability to stop waste from running warmly down your legs as "non-vital" obviously had different priorities, though ours would probably also change if chased by a T-Rex.

6 Ways Your Body Loves to Screw You (Explained by Science)


Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.

For more evidence that your brain hates being trapped inside you, check out 5 Ways Your Brain Is Messing With Your Head and 5 Horrific Ways Your Brain Can Turn On You Without Warning.

And stop by our Top Picks to see Bucholz trying to remove his own brain.

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