Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Study of blind athletes shows winning pose may be innate

From LiveScience as reported by MSNBC:

Everyone knows what an Olympic champion looks like, and apparently, how to behave like one.

It turns out that the stereotypical image of a victor — head tilted back, chest puffed out and arms in the air — may be an innate human response to success. (An example is the Michael Phelps pose after he wins a gold medal, left.)

A new study found that blind athletes who have never seen such a display make similar gestures of pride as sighted athletes when they win, and also slump their shoulders and narrow their chests in shame when they lose.

The findings imply that expressions of pride and shame may have evolved to be programmed into human behavior.

Researchers Jessica Tracy of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and David Matsumoto of San Francisco State University analyzed photographs taken during judo Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. competitions in the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They found that physical reactions to winning and losing among sighted people, congenitally blind people (those who have been blind since birth), and people who went blind later in life were
notably similar.

The scientists detail their results in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In general, when blind and sighted competitors won, they would expand their bodies, and when they lost, they would pull themselves inward.

The only differences the scientists saw were in the expression of shame. Sighted athletes from Western countries that value individualism, such as the United States, were less likely to show shame than congenitally blind Western athletes or sighted or blind athletes from cultures that value collectivism, such as Asian countries.