Humintell Research: Victory Stance, Universal Gesture for Triumph

The victory stance that many athletes take immediately after a win has been found to be a universal gesture for triumph which is the same across cultures.

China's Feng Wang Yun (L) celebrates aft

These new findings purport that triumph is a universal gesture seen in the “victory” stance of an athlete.  The idea of triumph being a universal emotion had its beginnings in Dr.  David Matsumoto’s 2008 study of Olympic athletes, which suggested that expressions of pride and shame are universal and hardwired in humans.

According to PHYS.Org, these new findings due to be published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior suggest the victory pose signals feelings of triumph, challenging previous research that labeled the expression pride.

 We found that displays of triumph include different behaviors to those of pride and occur more immediately after a victory or win.  Triumph has its own signature expression that is immediate, automatic and universal across cultures, “ stated Dr. David Matsumoto, professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.

In the new study, which Dr. Matsumoto co-authored with Humintell’s research scientist Dr. Hyi Sung Hwang, they investigated gestures labeled pride and triumph further and noted that gestures previously thought to be pride are more indicative of  a separate  emotion – triumph.  When we studied pride, there was always something gnawing at me because some of the expressions that were previously labeled pride just didn’t make that much sense to me.”

Their findings suggest not only that triumph is an emotion on its own but that it is a universal emotion as well meaning that it is displayed the same way across cultures.   Dr. Matsumoto goes on to say that expressions of triumph are a declaration of one’s success or performance whereas expressions of pride stem from feeling good about one’s self, which requires time for self-evaluation.

“One of the biggest differences between triumph and pride can be seen in the face,” Matsumoto said. “When someone feels triumphant after a contest or challenge, their face can look quite aggressive. It’s like Michael Phelps’ reaction after winning the 2008 Olympics.   It looks quite different to the small smile we see when someone is showing pride.”

Analysis of the photographs of athletes used in the study revealed that triumph expressions occurred, on average, 4 seconds after the end of a match. Pride expressions occurred, on average, 16 seconds after the end of the match.

ScienceDaily reports that more research could be conducted on triumph as an emotion and that some psychologists believe triumph is a subset of pride, while Matsumoto and Hwang’s latest findings suggest triumph is an emotion in its own right.

Breaking Muscle also commented on these new findings  saying that there has not been much research on triumph in previous studies.  They also have another example of the “victory stance” referred to in this study.

If you want to test this yourself, now is a great opportunity.  Watch the London 2012 Olympics on NBC at

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