----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:12
Subject: Phelps' victory dance is innate,
From the Los Angeles Times
Michael Phelps' victory dance is innate, scientists say
A study finds that blind athletes strike the same exuberant poses as
their sighted counterparts -- as do other primates.
By Denise Gellene
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Chimps do it. Gorillas do it. Michael Phelps does it
The exuberant dance of victory -- arms thrust toward the sky and
chest puffed out at a defeated opponent -- turns out to be an instinctive
trait of all primates -- humans included, according to research released
Scientists from the University of British Columbia and San
Francisco State University looked at thousands of photographs of judo matches
taken during the 2004 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games in Athens, for such
classic in-your-face victory moves as clenched fists, thrown-back heads and
The images of the 140 blind and sighted athletes
from 37 countries revealed that Paralympic athletes blind from birth struck
the same triumphant stance as sighted Olympic athletes. Since the blind
athletes could not have learned the victory dance by watching others, the
scientists concluded that the behavior was innate.
They found that the
dance was the same for all, regardless of what culture or country they came
This display of human pride and exuberance -- witnessed by
millions when swimmer Phelps and teammates won the men's 400-meter freestyle
relay for the U.S. on Sunday -- closely resembles the dominance displays of
chimps and monkeys, which also feature outstretched arms and exaggerated
postures, researchers said.
The animal world is filled with inflated
displays of superiority, noted Daniel M.T. Fessler, a UCLA anthropologist not
involved in the research.
Birds puff themselves up and cats arch their
backs to make themselves look bigger and scarier to adversaries, he
Jessica L. Tracy, a psychologist at the University of British
Columbia and lead author of the study in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, said that the hangdog look of losers also turns out to be
Blind athletes across all cultures slumped their shoulders
and narrowed their chests, a posture that signals shame in humans and
submission in other primates. Sighted athletes from most parts of the world
did the same.
But the researchers unexpectedly found that sighted
athletes from individualistic societies, such as in the U.S. and Western
Europe, tended to put on a brave front, outwardly appearing to stand tall in
the face of defeat and shame, the report said.
Tracy speculated that
the athletes were intentionally hiding their feelings -- consciously
overriding their innate urge to signal defeat -- because losing is so
stigmatized in their cultures.
"We have been taught that even if we
screw up in life, to hide it," she said.
It's just like politics in the
West, she added. "It's not OK to say, 'Hey, I was wrong.' "