Throwing your arms up in the air, raising your head, flashing a smile: your
body language when you win at sports is an instinctive reaction meant to
indicate dominance over your opponent, a new study finds.
These triumphal displays are made by athletes at the moment they determine
they are victorious and include actions such as raising the arms above the
shoulders, pushing the chest out, tilting the head back and smiling.
The researchers identified these responses in winners of Olympic and
Paralympic judo matches, and they were seen in athletes from all cultural
backgrounds, and even among blind athletes, according to the findings published
online in the journal Motivation and Emotion.
However, this type of behaviour is strongest in athletes whose cultures
emphasise status, the study authors added.
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Hierarchy in society
The findings suggest that such responses are natural and based on an
evolutionary need to establish order and hierarchy in society, according to
study co-author David Matsumoto, a psychology professor at San Francisco State
"It is a very quick, immediate, universal expression that is produced
by many different people, in many cultures, immediately after winning their
combat," Matsumoto said in a university news release. "Many animals
seem to have a dominant threat display that involves making their body look
Displaying dominance is used in many situations to establish status and
hierarchy within a group so that it operates efficiently, he explained.
"If you're in a meeting, the person sitting in the 'power chair' is
going to be more erect and look taller, they're going to use a strong voice,
they're going to use hand gestures that signify dominance," Matsumoto
said. "If there's conflict, the person who yells the most or is the most
stern will be seen as the leader. It establishes the hierarchy in that
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