The 'A Knife!' Video, Scientifically Very Hard to Only Watch Once

There are a couple of factors that make this short clip so eminently re-watchable. 


Two little words caused mayhem at a family picnic over Labor Day weekend, shouted by an exuberant 5-year-old: “A knife!”

Why the drama? Because “a knife!” was the answer to the command, “let me see what you have!” and the answerer was Jonathan, a boy running full-tilt around an inflatable pool. The question-asker, a 21-year-old who’s been dubbed “knife mom” online, only has one thing to say in response to Jonathan: “NO!”

The short but dramatic exchange was filmed by Chelsey Ryan, Jonathan’s cousin. According to an interview with the Washington Post, Ryan captured the moment accidentally while filming the get-together.

Ryan describes Jonathan as mischievous. “He knew it was wrong,” she said. “We talked to him again the other night when I was Face-Timing him. We said, ‘Jonathan, you know this is not okay.’ But he just laughed.”

Ryan’s friend, “knife mom,” said she sprung into action based on her “big mom instinct,” and that when she heard Jonathan’s response she “panicked and went worst case scenario that he was gonna hurt himself or do something bad.”

This maternal instinct is not uncommon, and research has shown that a strong response to the distressed cries of a child might even be inlaid into the brain. In one study, mothers showed higher response rates to their child’s cries than their child smiling, although there was also a pronounced difference in response to a mother’s own offspring versus another child. (“Knife mom” is not related to Jonathan.)

Other research unpacks why exactly this objectively dangerous scenario, a child running while holding a sharp object, is so hilarious. One neuroscientist theorized that “laughter evolved as a signal both to ourselves and others that what may appear dangerous or threatening actually isn’t,” according to an article in Psychology Today. This video is an excellent example of something that appears threatening but presents no actual threat; Jonathan’s knife was taken away from him by family members before it could do any damage.

And this video’s high re-watch value can be chalked up to the same thing that made Vines (Vine will never die) so appealing: It’s so brief (only 4 seconds long!) that it requires multiple viewings to drink everything in. Repeated viewings yield new details, like the person saying, “Oh my god, why does he have a—“ before the clip cuts off, only adding to its re-watchability, of course

Happy viewing and happy re-viewing.

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