Usage: One of our most common self-touch cues, the lip-touch signals a variety of moods and mental states including anxiety, boredom,excitement, fear, horror, and uncertainty. Stimulating the lips diverts attention, e.g., from a. disturbing thoughts and b. people who may upset us. As a self-consoling gesture, the lip-touch is equivalent to infntile thumb-sucking.
Observation. In a conversation, cross-examination, or interview, the lip-touch marks a nonverbal probing point, i.e., an unexpressed feeling, opinion, or thought to be explored.
Salesmanship. "Make a note: Do not touch the area between your nose and upper lip when you are lying to a prospect" (Delmar 1984:47).
Media. In the ninth inning of a nationally televised ball game at Busch Stadium, in which St. Louis Cardinal first baseman, Mark McGwire, hit his record-breaking 62nd home run of the year, McGuire touched his lips with his glove, in deep emotion, while awaiting the end of the ball game. (N.B.: In a nonverbal ritual before the game, McGwire rubbed his chest with the bat Roger Maris used to hit his own record 61st home run.)
RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. With adult strangers, girls show more hand-to-mouth gestures than boys (Stern and Bender 1974:245). 2. At 3-to-6 months, babies bring most objects to the mouth to be touched and explored (Chase and Rubin 1978:186).
Neuro-notes. Touching the mouth is emotionally analgesic (i.e., helps relieve physical and psychic pain). Our brain's cerebral neocortex devotes a disproportionately large part of its surface area to fingers, hands, and lips (see HOMUNCULUS). In the mind's eye, therefore, pressing "huge" fingertips against "enormous" lips is an efficient form of acupressure.
See also FINGERTIP CUE.