The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues

Freeze Reaction

Posture. A sudden involuntary cessation of body movement, usually in response to a novel stimulus or to fear.
Usage: The freeze reaction is a protective reflex. The body may automatically tense up as the nervous system mobilizes for action (see FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT) as in, e.g., a. when we hear a rattlesnake, or b. when we hear the boss call out our name.
RESEARCH REPORTS1. Immobility is an avoidance cue in nursery-school children (McGrew 1972:138). 2. Foot activity "decreased to a near zero level" in conditions of severe crowding (Baxter and Rozelle 1975:50). 3. Muscle tension is "a vestige of freezing" (LeDoux 1996:201).
Neuro-notes. The amygdala contains a "fear center" which a. activates the body's freeze reaction, and b. may stretch our lips into a fear grin.