There are many reasons that someone might put their hands on their heads. This post will try to help you figure out why someone might do it as it happens.

So, why do people put their hands on their heads? Frustration, stress, confidence, attraction and confusion can all cause people to put their hands on their heads. You will likely be able to figure out which based on their other body language signals.

There are actually a number of reasons that someone might put their hands on their heads. Thankfully, if you consider what happened when they did it, where they did it and the other signals that they are showing with their body language it is normally quite easy to figure out.

Why someone might put their hands on their head

There are a number of reasons that someone might put their hands on their head. Each of them will likely come with some predictable body language gestures.

Below I will mention a number of reasons that someone might put their hands on their heads along with the body language signs to look for.

Confidence

If someone is leaning back into a chair with their hands on the back of their head or they are doing it standing up with a straight spine then it would suggest that they are feeling confident.

When we put our hands on the back of our heads like that it exposes the front of our bodies making them vulnerable. This means that if we adopt this position it sends the message that we are not concerned about imminent threats.

This scenario would be more likely to happen in a location that the person is familiar with and in a situation where they are in charge. For example, this would be a typical position for a boss to adopt in his office.

If they are doing it due to feeling confident then they will likely show a number of other hints with their body language such as:

  • Strong eye contact
  • Taking up lots of space
  • Touching other people and their possessions
  • Having their legs spread out or wide apart
  • Pointing with their index finger
  • Relaxed shoulders
  • Large hand movements
  • Constant vocal tone that may sound slightly deeper

Attraction

One reason that someone might stand with their hands on their head is that they are presenting themselves to the opposite sex.

If this is the case then it would be likely that there is someone with them that they find attractive and would likely be in a location where it’s informal.

If they are doing it due to being attracted to someone then they would likely show body language that would signal attraction.

Some examples would be:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Touching the other person
  • Feet facing the person they find attractive
  • Giving genuine smiles towards the other person
  • Talking to the other person more than others
  • Giving lots of glances towards the person
  • Standing in their general area
  • Standing at a close proximity to the person they find attractive when talking to them

If it’s a woman then she may also play with her hair with her palms facing the person, talk at a slightly higher pitch than usual, might play with her jewelry around the person and might rub her face, neck, arms or upper legs more frequently.

If it’s a man he would likely talk in a deeper voice, hold longer eye contact with the person and may get anxious when the person is speaking to other people.

Frustration

One reason that someone might put their hands on their heads is that they are frustrated about something that just happened.

For example, they might put their arms on their heads after crashing a car or a sportsman might put his hands and arms on his head with the elbows in front after missing an easy shot.

If this is the case then it would likely be obvious that they are frustrated due to an event that just took place.

However, if you didn’t witness the event then they would likely still show signs of being frustrated such as:

  • Redness of the face
  • Clenching the jaw and fists
  • Pupil constriction
  • Shouting
  • Tightening of their muscles
  • Increased visibility of their veins around the forehead
  • Eyebrow furrowing
  • Stress lines on the forehead
  • Stamping their feet
  • Vigorously shaking their head, hands or face
  • Rubbing their legs, arms, neck or face repeatedly
  • Sweating

Stress

One reason that someone might put their hands on their head is that they are stressed.

If this is the case then it would likely appear to be more of a rubbing action and would often be on the forehead or the top of the back of the neck.

Recent events like if you see them find out bad news about something would likely hint towards stress.

Placing the hands on the head would be different compared to being due to frustration since if it’s due to frustration their actions would be more pronounced and vigorous. Putting their hands on the head due to stress would appear like more of a rubbing and closed look.

Some body language aspects to look for would be as follows:

  • Rubbing of the face, neck, arms or upper legs
  • Touching the palms
  • Touching the front of the neck
  • Tucking feet around the legs of their chair
  • Constricted pupils
  • Feet facing the exit
  • Tapping with their feet
  • Quivering of the lower eyelids and jaw
  • Rubbing the eyes and blinking a lot
  • Ventilation of the neck
  • Sinking lower and lower into their chair

Confusion

One reason that people might put their hands on their heads is due to confusion.

If it is due to being confused then they would likely be scratching their hair or sometimes rubbing.

It would likely be that confusion is the reason based on the scenario. For example, if a student scratches his head during an exam then it would suggest that he needs to think about the question more.

Forgetfulness

Another reason that someone might put their hands on their head is due to forgetting something.

When this is the case they would normally scratch or slap the front of their head.

Again, this one would likely be obvious based on the context of when it happens. For example, if someone forgets to bring their keys with them when they walk out the door it wouldn’t be unusual for them to slap the front of their head.

Look at their other body language signals

As mentioned already, when trying to figure out why someone might put their hands on their heads it’s important to consider other body language signals that they are showing.

Below I will mention a number of other body language signals in addition to those mentioned already that you should keep an eye out for.

  • Feet facing the exit or a particular person (signals interest)
  • Tapping the feet (signals wanting to leave or frustration)
  • Squinting of the eyes (stress, frustration, anger)
  • Tightening the lips (disagreement, anger, stress, frustration)
  • A change in vocal tone (nervousness)
  • Glancing towards the exit or a person a lot
  • Showing the teeth (anger)
  • Crossing the arms or legs (distancing)
  • Shielding the face or blocking it from view (distancing)

Think about when it happened

The timing of when the person put his/her hands on their head would likely be something that would help you greatly in figuring out why they did it.

If they did it right after something was said or after something happened then it would suggest that they had some kind of an emotional response to it.

Consider the location

It would also be helpful to consider where it happened.

Obviously, if a boss puts his hands on the back of his head in his office it would be a strong indicator of him feeling confident in that environment.

Whereas, if it happens at a sporting event it would more strongly suggest that they are frustrated about how they performed.

Consider their normal behavior

Learning what their normal behavior looks like would also be helpful.

If a person that is normally calm suddenly puts both hands on his/her head then it would be a strong indication that something is seriously bothering them.

Whereas, if it’s done by a person that typically makes more exaggerated gestures then it wouldn’t be as much of an indicator that something is seriously wrong. But, it could still suggest that they are feeling emotional in some way and something might still be seriously wrong.

Related

What does it mean when someone rubs their forehead? If someone rubs their forehead it would indicate that they are feeling stressed in some kind of way. Their other body language signals would likely show you whether it’s due to stress, anxiety or nervousness or something else.

If you want to learn more about body language, a book I would recommend would be The Definitive Book of Body Language (on Amazon). It shows you how to interpret body language and understand people's true intentions.

Author

I created and currently manage Body Language Central, one of the premier sources for body language-related knowledge. Body language plays a key role in our daily lives. I hope that my website can help condense the wide amount of body language information available and allow you to make full use of it in your daily life. You can read more about me and my website here.