What a Girl Wants: Strategic Moves on the Dance Floor

In the last few classes of my Animal Behavior class, we have switched from more “typical” animal behavior discussions to discussions about human behavior and its causes. Being interested in psychology/neuroscience, I have been absolutely fascinated with this part of the class. Yesterday, we discussed Evolutionary Psychology and the possibility of sexual selection in humans.

In our talk about sexual selection, we discussed a study that investigated which dance moves are more likely to catch a female’s eye on the dance floor. How was this done? Thirty male participants were filmed while dancing, and avatars were created from their movements. Then, thirty-seven women rated the attractiveness of each avatar’s dance moves. What was found? Variability and amplitude of movements in the head, neck, and torso and speed of right knee movements are indicative of good/attractive male dancers. This means lots of bending and twisting of the torso, bobbing of the neck, and raising of the right knee (watch the videos below for examples!).

Good dancing, bad dancing

So, why are these dance moves more appealing?! What about raising and moving your right knee with speed is indicative of your attractiveness?! That is where the evolutionary part of evolutionary psychology or biology comes in. It is hypothesized that these moves are more attractive because they are telling of a male’s fitness. The more moves that a male can perform, with more strength and energy, the better adapted he is to his environment. This hints at the idea that he would be able to successfully care for offspring and that his good genes would be passed on to his offspring. In the authors’ own words, a male’s dance moves are “honest signals of traits such as health, fitness, genetic quality, and developmental history” (Neave et al., 2010). Females preferred these dance moves because, at the most basic level, they showed that the male was in shape and fit.

Evolutionary psychology/biology is an absolutely fascinating topic that studies why we think they way we do, based on our ancestor’s needs millions of years ago. How cool!

The article for this study is called Male dance moves that catch a woman’s eye and was conducted by Nick Neave, Kistofor McCarty, Jeanette Freynik, Nicholas Caplan, Johannes Hönekopp, and Bernhard Fink and was published by Biology Letters in August 2010. A link to it can be found here.

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