Asked by: Rob Banino, Bristol
In many cultures, including ours, pointing at other people is considered rude because it’s associated with blame allocation (‘to point the finger at…’). Also, by pointing at someone, you automatically, and without their consent, make them an object of scrutiny. However, this taboo does not appear to be culturally universal. For instance, the anthropologist Olivier Le Guen notes that among the indigenous Yucatec Mayas in southern Mexico, it’s not considered rude to point at others.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.