Biology lessons from the nightclub

By | Health & Wellness
Men are able to gauge the upper body strength of other men from their dance moves, says new research, pointing to a form of sexual selection seen in many other animal species. Credit image@ creative commons,

Are you the king of the dance floor? Do you have moves that could make you Strictly Come Dancing champion? There’s a high chance that you receive your fair share of female attention. However, there are more than just womanly eyes that follow your dancing, as it seems that men also keep an eye on your moves.

New research suggests that the male mind may be even more adept a picking up certain physical cues from others of the same sex, say a team from Northumbria University, United Kingdom and the University of Göttingen in Germany.

The team, led by psychologists Dr. Nick Neave and Kristofor McCarty, published their findings in the scientific journal American Journal of Human Biology.

They recruited 30 men, aged between 19 and 37 years old, and told them to dance to a simple drum rhythm. The participants’ biomechanical indices, or movements, were recorded on video camera, and translated into a digitalized avatar form using advanced motion capture technology.

In addition to the dancing, the test subjects were asked to undergo fitness tests to evaluate their upper and lower body strength as well as their cardiovascular fitness.

They then showed the digitalized avatars dancing to 27 women and 20 men, and each viewer was asked to rate the clips as to what they perceived as good dancing, or vice versa.

In this modernized world, it is easy to forget that humans are still animals. With our clothing, houses, technology and social etiquette, it would seem that the human species has done its fair share to distance itself from nature.

Yet, there may still be remnants of our animal instincts underneath the suits and dresses after all.

The results of the rating showed that both sexes rate larger, faster and slightly randomized arm movements as an indicator of good dancing, and these often correlated with greater handgrip strength derived from the fitness tests.

However, men were better able at picking up on visual clues associated with strength more readily than women.

Many organisms “dance” to attract a mate, for example birds of paradise. This form of visual display is a way for such animals to gauge fitness, with females picking males they deem fitter, as they will produce better offspring.

So while women may find good dancers attractive, the fact that men also pick up visual clues, especially those regarding strength, shows that even within the same sex, fitness is being analyzed.

The researchers attribute this to a biological concept known as intrasexual selection, or competition between the same sex. Outside of the human world, one such example of this is male red deer locking antlers during rutting season. Whilst the dancing mainly shows intersexual selection, designed to seduce members the opposite sex, the results clearly show elements of the former too.

On the dance floor, men use the visual cues from the movements as a way of determining upper body strength, a valuable way of ‘sizing-up’ their so-called competition for women partners.

Dr. Neave, speaking to the news release, explained that “rated dance quality was positively associated with actual grip strength and these clues of upper-body strength were most accurately picked up by male observers. This ability to discern upper-body strength is principally because men are looking for cues of ‘formidability’ in other males.”

This allows males to judge the physical strength, which biologically would equate to energy saving and injury avoidance, something that could be problematic in other animal species.

Even with all the modernization and technological advances, mankind is still subject to the same biological principles that govern the natural world, and it would seem night clubs are a hub for sexual selection. So while all the flirting, gazing, looking and dancing may be activities that we wouldn’t think twice about, these behaviors and interactions are undertaken for a reason, in which the principles are shared with many other animals.

Have you been to any dance classes that youd recommend? 



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